US President Donald Trump started his trip to China Wednesday, the third and the most important stop on his first Asia tour since assuming office. While Japan and South Korea, the first two destinations of Trump's trip, are allies of the US, China isn't. How to define the Washington-Beijing relationship is controversial in the US.
Japan and South Korea are in the "grip" of the US, and it has some influences on the reception given to Trump and the top-level exchanges in Japan and South Korea. But China is the world's second-largest power and an independent state. How to handle relations with Beijing is real "diplomacy" for Washington that requires wisdom from both sides.
China will give Trump a "state visit-plus" welcome, and, according to reports, President Xi Jinping will host Trump in the Forbidden City. Such hospitality is rarely seen in modern China. Beijing's enthusiasm reflects the most positive part of the attitude that the diversified world holds toward the US, and the realistic international outlook of the rising China.
For a long time, some US elites regarded the attitude of US allies as coordinates for the other parts of the world, but they have it wrong. It's impossible for the US to dominate the whole world in the way it dominates Japan.
Asia and the world are not an amplified version of Japan. Even India is seeking independence and self-esteem, stressing its self-interests. China, in particular, represents the sophistication of the world. It has a long and continuous history of civilization, and, after each declination, rejuvenation is its historic goal.
Chinese culture advocates consultation and Chinese politics emphasizes principles. The country's history is an outcome of reconciliation and integration. We believe the deep communications between China and the US will eventually lead to the mutual inclusiveness of interests.
It's impossible for China and the US to please the other at the sacrifice of their major interests, but both sides seem to have learned not to challenge those interests. Win-win cooperation is the only option for major powers nowadays as human society has already passed through the era where civilizations have to conquer the other for survival. "Containment" and "encirclement" don't conform to the current international economic and political structure. Despite calls to contain China by some US elites for a long time, Sino-US trade and communications are becoming broader and more extensive.
The deep logic of international relations has changed, and this is the fundamental reason for the growth in Sino-US tiesdespite appeals for "containment." Strategists should learn and adapt to the new logic, and those with a Cold War mentality have become outdated and cannot understand the new Asia-Pacific and China.
Trump places particular focus on the importance of reviving the US economy, which is the fundamental way to "Make America Great Again." In addition, he has little interest in empty diplomatic struggles, another good tendency.
Trump holds high the banner of "America First," but the Chinese leadership will not prioritize the interests of the US over those of China. Beijing-Washington competition should be benign. Xi and Trump have the opportunity to jointly open a new chapter in history.
People have long anticipated that a major-power relationship could break away from a zero-sum model. Some US media outlets are badmouthing Sino-US relations, but we believe neither Beijing nor Trump's team will be bothered by them.