“China and the U.S. are two giant ships sailing in the ocean. It is important for the two sides to keep a steady hand on the tiller, so that the two giant ships will break waves and forge ahead together, without losing direction or speed, still less colliding with each other,” Chinese President Xi Jinping pointed out when meeting with his U.S. counterpart Joe Biden via video link on Nov. 16.
The first-ever virtual meeting between a Chinese President and a U.S. President was significant for China-U.S. ties and international relations. The two sides had thorough and in-depth communication and exchanges on issues of strategic, overarching, and fundamental importance shaping the development of China-U.S. relations.
During the meeting, the two heads of state both voiced opposition to the so-called “new Cold War,” saying the two countries should jointly hold the line of no conflict and no confrontation.
Against the backdrop of profound changes and a pandemic unseen in a century, the world is at a historical crossroads, and so are China-U.S. relations. At the critical moment, the two heads of state are steering the relations between the two countries and have charted the course for and injected impetus in the development of China-U.S. relations in the near future, which benefits the two peoples and meets the expectation of the international society.
To keep the relationship between the two countries in the right direction, they must review how they have developed their ties in the past days and look into the future from higher perspectives.
When the two heads of state held phone call conversations on Feb. 11 and Sept. 10 this year, Xi mentioned the development of China-U.S. ties “over the past half century and more” and the history of how the “ice” was broken between the two countries in 1971.
He stressed that the most important event in international relations over the past 50 years was the reopening and development of China-U.S. relations, which has benefited the two countries and the whole world. The most important event in international relations in the coming 50 years will be for China and the U.S. to find the right way to get along. History is a fair judge. What a statesman does, be it right or wrong, an accomplishment or a failure, will all be recorded by history.
Biden echoed Xi’s comment that history is a fair judge and that they should make the relationship work and not mess it up.
The virtual meeting demonstrated that historical responsibilities should be critical foundations for the development of China-U.S. relations.
To keep to the right direction in the relationship between the two countries, they must show broad vision and shoulder great responsibilities. The two countries should look ahead and press forward, demonstrate strategic courage and political resolve.
During the meeting, Xi highlighted that a review of the experience and lessons learned in growing China-U.S. relations shows that for the two countries to get along in the new era, three principles must be followed: mutual respect, peaceful coexistence, and win-win cooperation.
In the interactions between two countries this year, from Anchorage to Tianjin, and Zurich and Rome, China has always insisted that mutual respect and treating each other as equals are vital premises for the health and stable development of China-U.S. relations. The peaceful coexistence between the two countries conforms to the common interests of the international society, including China and the U.S. themselves. Only cooperation leads to win-win results, and cooperation is necessary for the two countries as their interests are deeply intertwined.
The world is big enough for China and the U.S. to develop individually and collectively. The right thing to do is to choose mutual benefit over a zero-sum game or the I-win-you-lose approach.
To bring China-U.S. relations back to the right track of healthy and stable development, the two countries must focus on concrete actions and meet each other halfway.
Xi identified four priority areas on which China and the U.S. should focus their efforts. He said the two countries should shoulder the responsibilities of major countries, lead global response to outstanding challenges, and act in the spirit of equality and mutual benefit to move forward exchanges at all levels and in all areas and generate more positive energy for China-U.S. relations. Besides, they should also manage differences and sensitive issues in a constructive way to prevent China-U.S. relations from getting derailed or out of control, and strengthen coordination and cooperation on major international and regional hotspot issues to provide more public goods to the world.
Efforts must be taken on the four priority areas so that the two countries can run their domestic affairs well and, at the same time, shoulder their share of international responsibilities. If they can make the right political decisions and make progress in these areas, they will bring tangible benefits to the two peoples and the people in the rest of the world.
To bring China-U.S. relations back to the right track of healthy and stable development, the two countries must respect each other’s core interests and major concerns.
The Taiwan question has always been the single most important and most sensitive issue at the core of China-U.S. relations. At present, there is a new wave of tensions across the Taiwan Strait due to the repeated attempts by the Taiwan authorities to look for U.S. support for their independence agenda as well as the intention of some Americans to use Taiwan to contain China.
Xi remarked that there is but one China in the world and Taiwan is part of China, and the Government of the People’s Republic of China is the sole legal government representing China.
Biden reaffirmed the U.S. government’s long-standing one-China policy, stated that the U.S. does not support “Taiwan independence,” and expressed the hope for peace and stability to be maintained in the Taiwan Strait.
It is hoped that the U.S. will practice what it has said, explicitly and firmly oppose all “Taiwan independence” actions, and stop sending wrong signals to the separatist forces for Taiwan independence.
The virtual meeting between the two heads of state was candid, constructive, substantive, and productive. It helped increase mutual understanding, added to the positive expectation of the international community for this relationship, and sent a powerful message to the two countries and the world.
The U.S. should work with China and meet China halfway, implement the consensuses of the meeting with concrete actions, maintain dialogues and communication with China, enhance mutually beneficial cooperation and manage differences responsibly, so as to bring China-U.S. relations back to the right track of healthy and stable development, and benefit the two peoples and the people in the rest of the world.
(Zhong Sheng is a pen name often used by People’s Daily to express its views on foreign policy.)