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December 31, 2018

Responding To: Managing U.S.-China Cooperation and Competition

Establishing Multilateral Relationships and Deploying Engagement Strategy

Yihong Shi

The world has recently witnessed tension between United States and China. The extraordinary growth and frequent demonstration in both the economic and military sphere on the international stage of China’s rise has showed that China is exerting magnificent influence in international affairs, which makes U.S. side feel unsafe and have to reconsider its hegemony of the long-standing unipolar international system. On the one hand, the United States is eager to maintain its primacy by imposing tariffs on Chinese goods, stirring criticism regarding China’s militarization in the South China Sea region and so forth. On the other hand, in order to thrive in as well as cultivate an opener and fairer environment, China has unveiled several proposals and initiatives, including the Belt and Road Initiative, to reach its goal.

Many commentators perceive the escalating competition as intense, aggressive and damaging, claiming that the U.S.-China relationship has dipped to its chilliest level. The trade war, for example, as an approach to strengthen the U.S. leadership, has illustrated how harsh it could be for consumers, firms from both of the countries and even the rest of the world. According to a report from Peterson Institute for International Economics, unlike former rounds which aims most at intermediate and materials, at this round of tax war, tariffs are levied on consumer goods directly, which indicates an obvious increase in consumers’ expenses. In addition, besides trade per se, residents’ incomes and welfare could be influenced as well. As suggested before, the trade war is not restricted within these two countries but the also other parts of our world. Let’s look at Europe, which was hit by auto tariff imposed by the United States as well, given the fact that huge amount of cars are imported from Europe to the United States every year. It is more of a global issue for all the economies on world stage and each of those countries should have a second thought before they react, since evidence has shown that the adverse scenario is felt across the world.

Difficult as it may seem for both sides to cooperate under the current circumstance, there is much more we can do to ameliorate the U.S.-China relationship as well as to maintain partnership in dealing with global issues if we step beyond the bilateralism. As the leading figure, the United States is expected to drive the rest of the world to forge a better environment for cooperation by setting a good example. Tracing back to last century when the Joint Communiqué of the United States of America and the People's Republic of China was released, many countries followed the U.S. lead and established diplomatic relations with China and the world was connected into a coherent whole. Another compelling example involves APEC 2018. Due to the division between the United States and China, the regional leaders failed to agree on a communique for the first time in APEC’s history. As the prime minister of Papua New Guinea, the host this year sad, the entire world is “worried” because the two “giants” disagree. This sheds light on the importance of building multilateral relationships regarding global issues. By doing so, both countries are more capable of securing its economic, political and strategic interests.

Moreover, given the latest deal agreed by both sides to suspend tariffs, we do see the possibility to work together at the government level. The progress made recently suggested the engagement strategy from the United States side works better compared with its original containment strategy. The engagement strategy shows by establishing mutual trust, transparency and economic ties the development of both countries is enhanced. The United States still has a great capability to influence the world whereas China is still perceived to have the most potential to assist the United States to address a myriad of global issues. As Pomfret suggested in his book, The Beautiful Country and the Middle Country: America and China, 1776 to the Present, our different cultures and histories complement each other and at the same time we share so many values.

To ease the tension that we acknowledged, it is believed that establishing multilateral relationships and deploying engagement strategy with each other are of great importance. We should always try to find common ground and make reconciliations happen.

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