Enquanto Mister Trump pretende, eroticamente, enfrentar a China, não se sabe bem por quais motivos legítimos – sim, tem os falcões e os paranóicos americanos, que acreditam que a China é o grande inimigo dos EUA –, os chineses, e colegas acadêmicos americanos interagem sobre os 40 anos de relações bilaterais entre os dois países. Não vamos edulcorar a postura chinesa, que é oportunista por todas as vias possíveis, e denegrir a postura americana, por mais idiota que ela seja. A verdade é que a velha Guerra Fria geopolítica dos tempos da URSS (que deu dois suspiros e depois morreu) foi agora substituída por uma nova Guerra Fria, econômica desta vez. Em função da estupidez americana atual, os chineses estão ganhando essa guerra fria econômica, e vão continuar ganhando, enquanto o governo americano tiver um aloprado em seu comando...
Paulo Roberto de Almeida
Experts reflect on 40 years of Sino-US ties
Chief Opinion Writer, Shanghai Daily, December 16, 2018
Confucius once said, “At forty, I had no doubts.”
For a man, age forty is construed as a mark of maturity, the beginning of a phase in life moderated by a deflated ego, a mild temperament, and most important, the freedom from doubts and bewilderment.
But the sage’s musings don’t necessarily apply to relations between countries. China and the United States, who will soon be celebrating the 40th anniversary of the normalization of their diplomatic ties next year, apparently are far from attaining maturity in their ties.
The world’s two largest economies have been locking horns in a possibly protracted trade war that has destabilized world markets and unnerved international observers.
At a forum held in Shanghai on December 13, leading scholars from China and the US called on the public to look beyond newspaper headlines to take a long view of the achievements and setbacks of the bilateral relations.
David M. Lampton, professor at Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies, recalled his first visit to China in 1976, when he was travelling with a US delegation of scientists, and saw the real China he became fascinated with while growing up in Palo Alto, California, an area teeming with Chinese immigrants.
“The big phrase then was zi li geng sheng, or self-reliance,” said Lampton.
But in the era of the new Chinese leadership, especially since President Xi Jinping took office, “we hear more phrases like interdependence, that China will do things that it is best at doing and rely on the world system for some of the things it is not so good at doing,” he noted.
As president of the National Committee on United States-China Relations from 1988 to 1997, Lampton once received a Chinese delegation headed by five mayors, including the then Shanghai mayor Zhu Rongji, who was to become the country’s premier.
Vision and statesmanship
He was impressed by the pragmatism, vision and statesmanship of leaders like Zhu, who paved the way for a more constructive and eventually one of the world’s most important bilateral relationships.
His views were echoed by many of the forum’s attendees, including Zhou Wenzhong, China’s ex-deputy foreign minister and former ambassador to the US. Having served in the Chinese mission in the US for 16 years, Zhou had dealings with every US administration since President Jimmy Carter.
Some of the high moments of his career involved handling crises like the August 17, 1982 China-US Communiqué on arms sales to Taiwan, the US-led NATO’s bombing of the Chinese embassy in Belgrade in 1999, and the spy plane crash over the South China Sea in 2001.
Despite all these upheavals that could have derailed Sino-US relations, the two countries, mindful of the “bigger picture,” have managed to overcome their differences and expand their common interests. Consequently, the bilateral ties on the whole have been “fairly successful,” said Zhou.
However, the veteran diplomat said he did note disconcerting developments exemplified by the Trump administration’s initiation of a tariff war and other acts of provocation.
Having recently returned from a trip to the US, where he hobnobbed with old friends from the business and academic community, Zhou observed that many Americans too were concerned about the extent to which President Trump appears ready to push his trade demands.
To prove that China’s market is increasingly important to American manufacturers and exporters, he cited the skyrocketing sales of American bourbon whisky in China.
The booze has seen its sales leap 1,200 percent over the past 20 years, and China is a key factor behind that dramatic growth. “Last year alone, China contributed approximately US$9 million to the US bourbon whisky’s global sales,” said Zhou.
An ‘inside out’ perspective
Agricultural products are a bulk of American exports to China. Soybeans shipped to China, for example, account for almost 60 percent of the total US soybean exports.
Therefore, Zhou believed the tit-for-tat tariffs are in no country’s interests, and both China and the US would do well to remain open to negotiating an end to their six month-old trade tensions during the 90-day truce reached at the dinner meeting of the two presidents in Buenos Aires on December 1.
Meanwhile, Lampton argued for more serious attempts at deepening mutual understanding, especially among those tasked with studying each other’s country for the purpose of making policies.
He recounted his time as a student of China learning mostly by talking to the Chinese people. Similarly, today’s generation of China watchers in the US should bring an “inside out” perspective to their China studies, rather than observing China from the outside in, said Lampton.
In response to heated discussions about the Thucydides’ Trap, the celebrated scholar of international relations did agree that problems can happen with a “rising, confident power” and a “dominant, defensive power,” but he dismissed the notion that it inevitably means war. Instead, given the levels of interdependency between the two nations, he explained that it is all the more important that both the US and China rely more on each other on fronts such as ecological and economic cooperation to conquer the Thucydides’ problem.
“The problem exists, but smart, well-meaning people can overcome that,” he said.
During the December 13 forum, organizers also unveiled a multimedia program called “40 on 40,” which consists of a series of high-profile interviews with 40 distinguished thinkers on US-China relations.
They include former US President Jimmy Carter, the father of “soft power” and Harvard university professor Joseph Nye, Lamtpon and Zhou. The interviews will be published in books next year.
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