The heads of state of China and the U.S. reached a consensus in Osaka at the end of June, agreeing to restart trade negotiations on the basis of equality and mutual respect. The U.S. side stated that it would no longer impose new tariffs on Chinese imports, sending a positive sign of the U.S.-China relationship to the international community. On July 3, the Washington Post published an open letter signed by 100 people from the academic, diplomatic, military, and business circles of the U.S. to President Trump and the U.S. Congress, affirming that the consensus is the intention of the two peoples and is in line with the expectations of the international community. The decline in U.S.-China relations is not in line with U.S. and global interests, and China is not an enemy of the U.S., nor does China pose a threat to U.S. national security.
However, just as countries around the world were seeing a glimpse of hope from the troubles caused by China-U.S. trade frictions, the U.S. on August 2 once again unilaterally claimed to impose an additional 10 percent tariff on US $300 billion worth of Chinese imports starting from September 1, and days later listed China as a currency manipulator. This provoked opposition from many countries including China. According to Alfredo Toro Hardy, a retired Venezuelan diplomat, while Beijing provides opportunities for economic gains around the world, Washington only displays protectionism and threats, and will one day eventually pay the price of isolation.
As the new tariff mainly aims at consumer goods such as smartphones, laptops, clothing, and toys, it will have more direct impact on the U.S. consumers than ever before. Although mobile phones and computers are exported by China, a large number of intermediate products used to make them are exported from the U.S. If high tariffs are imposed, companies in Silicon Valley will suffer. China has a well-established independent industrial system, which has a good foundation in the frontier domains of artificial intelligence, biological sciences, and 5G. At the same time, China has a workforce of nearly 900 million, of which 170 million have received higher education and possess professional skills in various sectors. The Sino-U.S. trade conflicts cannot stop China’s development, and the difficulties it has caused China are only temporary.
Before the current trade frictions, business, education, political, and cultural exchanges between the two countries were very frequent, and as such brought about a lot of benefits and win-win results to both sides.
According to Neil Bush, founder and chairman of the George H.W. Bush Foundation for U.S.-China Relations, “The very fact of China’s economic rise is causing angst, and this is the reason behind the worsening of the U.S.-China relationship. The zero-sum, winner-takes-all mentality is wrong and naïve.” Neil Bush is the son of late U.S. president George H.W. Bush.
According to Bush, the truth is that the U.S. trade deficit with China is natural as the developed country buys more stuff from the developing country. As China continues to develop, China will generate more demand for energy, agricultural products, and high-end branded goods, and the U.S.-China trade deficit will inevitably shrink. In the process, both the U.S. and China can benefit from this trade relationship.
American nationalists mistakenly believe that China’s political elites are indifferent to human rights and personal freedom. Neil Bush said that he knows very well that China is not such a country. As a freedom-loving American, Bush is amazed at the unprecedented increase in China’s social freedoms over the past 44 years. According to him, the fact that a country with such a large population as China can achieve this achievement in such a short period of time is unprecedented in human history. Nowadays, Chinese people are free to choose the cities they live in, the people they marry, and the professions they are engaged in. People can travel freely around the world, and freely choose the country of their choice to let their children receive the best education, and are also free to immigrate abroad to enjoy a higher quality of life if they desire to do so. All of these were unimaginable 44 years ago.
Although the changes in the world situation have brought new challenges to China-U.S. relations, the China-U.S. trade frictions that have lasted for more than a year have brought about a bumpy relationship between the two countries. However, it is believed that the Chinese and American people have the wisdom to choose the right direction for the development of bilateral relations. In the future, it will be true just as the late President George H.W. Bush once said, establishing a closer U.S.-China relationship through in-depth cooperation is in the best interests of helping the two countries cope with the increasingly serious human challenges. This is not only the expectation of China and the United States, but also the rest of the world.