Commentary: What to do when the US-China rivalry gulf remains deep, wide and long-lasting

HOW WIDE IS THE GULF?

Americans at the meeting had plenty to say on this.

Several said the differences were structural over a wide range of issues including trade, technology, and their differing positions on international issues such as the Ukraine war, the Middle East conflict and the South China Sea disputes.

One American participant noted that the two sides were at loggerheads in so many areas, it could only be described as a cold war, but with a small “c” and “w”, suggesting that they are some distance away from the level of tension seen during the Cold War of the last century, when differences between the West and the Soviet Union were irreconcilable and there was always a danger of the rivalry erupting into a nuclear conflict.

He said it was useful to acknowledge this so there could be a better understanding of the nature of the rivalry and how to manage it.

It is an important message. One US speaker sharpened the point, for me at least, when in answer to a question about how to improve relations between the two said this: Achieving better ties was not a goal the US was currently seeking. Rather, its focus was on how to maintain its position amid the changing geopolitical landscape.

It was a sobering reality check about expecting any improvement in the relationship.

The Chinese side was not so emphatic on this point. Rather, the underlying message from them was that China could not be pushed around, that the era of complete American domination was over and a new balance had to be struck to take into account China’s place in the world.

One interesting point from a Chinese speaker: A strong China is necessary for global stability.

He did not say it, but the inevitable conclusion must be that the country will relentlessly pursue its development in all the areas that will strengthen its global power, including advanced technology, defence and its international relations.

It is no longer only about improving the livelihood of the Chinese people which, of course, remains centre stage, but it is also about making the world more secure.

That is how China is framing its position.

As with the American side, there was also a hint of fatalism about this new order when a Chinese participant made the somewhat startling but, perhaps, entirely realistic declaration, that trust was not a critical factor as both sides try to manage their relations.

He observed that during the Cold War, there was deep mistrust between the US and the Soviet Union but they were able to agree on issues such as nuclear controls and, most importantly, avoided direct conflict.

It was another sobering reality check.

SOURCE: CNA (Channelnewsasia.com) RSS Latest News   (go to source)
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