Chang Fan | January 1, 2019
Responding To: Managing U.S.-China Cooperation and Competition
U.S.-China Cooperation in International Security
With the upgrading of China’s economic prosperity and international influence, the definition of U.S.-China relations has been increasingly transformed from cooperation to competition, especially after China proposed the One Belt and One Road Initiative (BRI). Many experts in the mainstream of western academic world compare BRI to the Marshall Plan and consider it as China’s international diplomatic efforts to supplant America’s traditional sphere of influence through infrastructure building and China-centered trade system. Public concerns have arose that America and China will eventually fall into the Thucydides Trap and war is inevitable in current context of U.S.-China trade frictions.
We can never deny that U.S.-China relations has come to a new stage and two countries increasingly compete for influence on the world landscape. However, competition does not necessarily result in confrontation. The confrontation between the Soviet Union and America during the Cold War is not applicable to present-day world due to drastic changes happening in all fields. I firmly believe there is broad space for the United States and China to cooperate on global issues of common concern due to the convergence of common interests regarding international security, public health, environmental issues and climate change, humanitarian issues and so on and great efforts have been made to improve the status quo.
For example, I would like to elaborate on the feasibility of U.S.-China cooperation in international security and take the Korean Peninsula nuclear issue as well as anti-terrorism struggle as specific cases.
The lethality of nuclear weapons to some extent unified the nations of the world and guaranteed the world peace after World War II. Agreement was reached on nuclear non-proliferation and both America and China signed the Non-Proliferation Treaty and have the obligation to prevent more countries from developing nuclear weapons. With regard to the Korean Peninsula nuclear issue, it is of critical importance to America and China because of its specific geopolitical environment. If a nuclear detonation happened there, the northeast of China, North Korea, South Korea and Japan will all be involved and will cause humanitarian disaster and change the distribution of power in East Asia, which both the United States and China are reluctant to deal with, not to mention the complicated relationship among those countries. To avoid the consequence, it is very possible for the United States and China to cooperate and the establishment and activity of the six-party talks has proved the practicability. Without China’s effort, it is almost impossible for the leaders of North Korea and the United States to sit at a table, not to speak of negotiating. The U.S.-China cooperation plays a key role in this situation under the impetus of common interests.
Anti-terrorism is also an important area where U.S.-China cooperation could be fulfilled. On the one hand, both countries have suffered the bitterness from terrorist attacks. The memory of the 9/11 incident is indelible for every American. Places along China’s western border are penetrated by terrorists from time to time which seriously jeopardize the local security. On the other hand, as great powers, both countries should assume the responsibility to maintain the security of global community. Since terrorism is the most prominent challenge to global security for now, America and China are duty-bound to commit to the anti-terrorism struggle and China’s increasing contributions will release the pressure of American forces as well as its allies. The booming of religious extremism in recent years as well as the historical legacy of ethnic conflicts and terrestrial disputes have motivated the rise of terrorism and led to the severe situation. It is clear that destroying ISIS does not mean eliminating terrorism and hence there is still a long fight ahead against terrorism based on the cooperation among nations especially between the United States and China.
In summary, U.S.-China cooperation could move ahead on international security as well as other fields as long as America and China place more weight on common interests than competition on the issues. Although America and China are rivals for influence, both sides can avoid the emergence of a head-on confrontation. As rational actors, they have fairly good ideas about what is going on and should be able to figure out the countermeasure. The slight fluctuation of U.S.-China relationship will not thoroughly shake the foundation of bilateral cooperation.
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