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January 16, 2017

Responding To: Tangible Cooperation in 2017

New Fields of Sino-U.S. Cooperation in 2017

Yuwen Long

A few days after picking up a provoking phone call from Taiwan’s political leader, President-elect Trump tweeted, “China steals United States Navy research drone in international waters-rips it out of water and takes it to China in unpresidented act.” From Beijing’s point of view this is not stealing; rather, it is a legal act since the underwater drone which belongs to the U.S. Navy was researching in the South China Sea. In light of international customary law, warships and navies have the right of innocent passage with required permission from coastal states. Immediately, public media commented on the rising tension between China and the United States. What is unknown to all is that the phone call occurred just a few hours after former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger met in Beijing with Chinese President Xi Jinping. Actually, Kissinger delivered a friendly and constructive message on China-U.S. cooperation from Trump. Mixing cooperation with competition, 2017 is a hopeful year for China-U.S. relations.

As Kissinger has pointed out in his book Does America Need a Foreign Policy? cooperative relations are not a favor either country bestows on the other. They are in the common interest of both countries. Regarding foreign policy, Trump has sent some positive signals to the world. For example, Trump chose Tillerson, a global businessman, leading one of the world’s giant corporations, ExxonMobile, who has a realistic understanding of international affairs and of the international economy as the next U.S. Secretary of State. Additionally, Trump has picked Iowa Governor Terry Branstad for the key post of U.S. Ambassador to China; he is considered as Xi Jinping’s old friend. A constructive diplomatic relationship between the two countries is the bedrock for economic collaboration. Donald Trump’s economic plans, labeled as Trumponomics, have received as much skepticism as criticism. Instead of imposing tariffs on goods from China, there is more we can do together to expand the economies of both China and the United States. 

   When we look back to 2016, one area that became a hot spot is the South China Sea. In July 2016, an illegitimate arbitration at a so-called tribunal in The Hague was initiated by the former Philippine administration, which is a challenge to international law. China reiterated its position of non-acceptance of and non-participation in the arbitration. The United States’ so-called “freedom of navigation” operations became more active in South China Sea. Last month, the U.S. Navy sent an underwater drone in the South China Sea, which was seized and caught world attention again. The U.S. Navy has already deployed warships to China’s doorstep, but it would be unimaginable if China did the same, like sending a navy to California. Both China and the United States condemn each other militarizing the South China Sea. But the fact is that only peace and security in this region can benefit the two countries and the global community. It is prerequisite that China and the United States build mutual trust and start a dialogue on this issue. China has always implemented a policy of “shelving differences and seeking joint development” by putting aside the sovereignty issue and exploring the disputed islands together with South China Sea littoral countries in light of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (1982). As a practical businessman, Trump ought to understand that interference in the South China Sea will not bring America any benefits. If the United States could follow the neutrality principle toward the South China Sea in 2017, a deep, constructive dialogue between the two countries will help find a resolution to this dispute. Both bilateral dialogue and negotiation in ASEAN will work. By simplifying regional affairs and building mutual trust, real peace in the South China Sea will be achieved.

  Another perspective is economic cooperation. Following the thinking of businessmen, there will be more fields of potential cooperation in trade between China and the United States under Trump’s administration. The United States and China are the world's two largest economies with bilateral trade in goods and services reaching nearly $660 billion last year. “Make America Great Again” such as in developing the economy is a main slogan in Trump’s presidential campaign. One of his priorities is rebuilding American manufacturing. Facing an economic slow-down and the bursting housing bubble, the Chinese government will also focus on reshaping manufacturing this year. These conditions push China and the United States to collaborate in the manufacturing industry. Through the annual U.S.-China Strategic and Economic Dialogue, the two countries can invest in enterprises strategically and share green technologies to replace the traditional high-cost production system.

When we look back to 2016, we can find ups and downs in Sino-U.S. relations. But in general, 2016 was a good year with many surprises, from political outsider Trump winning the U.S. presidential election to Britain’s decision to leave the EU. Overall, we have a good start for China-U.S. cooperation in new fields under new circumstances. World peace and development as the common values between China and the United States will bring us a brighter future in 2017. 

Yuwen Long is a junior at Shandong University in China with double majors in law and English.

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