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2020 China-U.S.Relations Outlook

2020-02-10 04:03:13 《China Pictorial》 2020年1期

by Xu Feibiao

On December 13, 2019, after nearly 20 months of arduous negotiations, China and the United States reached a consensus on the text of a phase-one economic and trade agreement. The agreement clearly benefits China, the United States and the peace and prosperity of the whole world thanks to its impact on the stability of China-U.S. relations.

Maintaining smooth development of the global economy is crucial to the well-being of all people around the world. The pause and de-escalation of the trade war is helping reduce uncertainty hindering economic development in China and the United States by improving the external economic environment, promoting structural reform and stabilizing momentum of economic development.

The agreement also prevented difficulties in China-U.S. relations from escalating. Since the Trump administration came into power, the United States has raised the “America First” banner to promote unilateralism and protectionism, labeling China as its“strategic competitor.” The country has carried out a comprehensive crackdown on China in terms of economics and trade, science and technology, finance, diplomacy and security, which has shaken the roots of bilateral relations.

Clearly, the phase-one agreement doesnt mean that relations between the two countries will have since developed smoothly. China-U.S. relations have become the most important and complex bilateral relations in the world. Although the two countries economic and trade relations managed to avoid a dangerous precipice leading to a vicious circle and decoupling, several structural factors that cause tensions between the two countries remain. In 2020, China-U.S. relations will still face considerable challenges. However, both sides will keep competing and cooperating.

Conclusion of the phase-one economic and trade deal strengthened the foundation of cooperation between the two sides.

Next, the two sides will engage in greater consultation and cooperation to ensure the implementation of the agreement, including implementation of the dispute settlement mechanism which will produce many new cooperation opportunities.

If the phase-one economic and trade deal is completed smoothly, the two sides will likely carry out consultations for the second and third phases to push the already shaken China-U.S. economic and trade cooperation—the “ballast”of bilateral relations—back on normal track.

However, uncertainties about the agreement remain. Temporary suspension of trade disputes does not guarantee that they will not reemerge. The economic and trade differences of the two countries far transcend the contents of the phase-one agreement. Both sides still need to reach greater consensus in many fields including reform of state-owned enterprises, industrial overcapacity, industrial policies, industrial subsidies, and scientific and technological innovation.

With the rapid development of China, the ruling and opposition parties in the United States have formed a strategic consensus on positioning China as a long-term strategic opponent. American hawks and conservatives are on the rise, and they will continue to influence the countrys China policy.

Since 2018, the United States has exerted intense pressure on China in fields like science and technology, human rights, diplomacy, security, and ideology, which will maintain policy inertia in 2020 and remain static in the short term.

2020 marks a U.S. presidential election year, and candidates from both Democrats and Republicans will not pass on the opportunity to leverage China issues for votes.

The zigzagging development history of China-U.S. relations has demonstrated that cooperation benefits both countries as well as the rest of the world. Friction only fosters a lose-lose situation and harms the whole world. Both countries are nuclear and economic powers, but so far, neither has become hostile or threatened the survival of the other.

China and the United States can avoid the so-called Thucydides Trap, a theory that claims Chinas rapid rise would prompt it to challenge the leadership of the United States and the two might resort to war. Chinas unique history, culture and traditional values determine how China views the world, the United States and itself, distinct with Western pursuit of hegemony. This determines that China will develop in a totally different way from traditional Western powers.

To maintain the stability of China-U.S. relations and promote world peace, China will continue to stand by its bottom line, consolidate and implement achievements of existing agreements between the two sides, and expand the foundation of consensus and cooperation. Meanwhile, China will strengthen domestic reform, accelerate economic adjustment and upgrading, and deepen opening-up efforts. It will continue to promote multilateralism and expand its circle of friends and strategic partner network to build a community with a shared future for humanity.

In the era of globalization, the fates of all countries are closely intertwined. China and the United States have broad space for cooperation. It is believed that people of the two countries have enough wisdom and ability to coexist harmoniously.