China-U.S. Ties: Measuring it with a new metric
Updated 22:36, 26-Jan-2021
World Insight with Tian Wei

"Traditional big power relations gauge national power through GDP. But GDP is not the right standard to judge these relations. By 2030 China's total GDP will surpass the U.S. But so what? How about China's high tech, per capita GDP or quality of life? We need new standards to judge relations," said Yuan Peng, president of the China Institutes of Contemporary International Relations. CGTN host Tian Wei asked Yuan about how different metrics are needed to measure China-U.S. ties from 2021 and beyond.

The most immediate challenge facing China-U.S. ties is the COVID-19 pandemic. Yuan said a Biden presidency offers a reset for the U.S. role in combating the pandemic. "Biden can play a leading role of combating COVID-19 in cooperation with China and other countries. COVID-19 is not too serious, so long as we have cooperation and confidence in combating the pandemic," he said.

The pandemic is a good example of how traditional metrics of measuring national strength may not be the most appropriate. Yuan said, "A political virus has accompanied the real pandemic in the U.S. In terms of the political virus, I think Biden will handle it much better than Trump." Yuan cautioned that the partisan domestic environments left by Trump will still hamper Biden's capability to set his own agenda.

Even though Yuan acknowledged that Biden will steer the U.S. on to a more predictable path, he also warned that the U.S. Democratic Party could still pose challenges to China, especially through an ideological lens. "The Democratic party always likes using ideology as a tool in foreign policy. Indeed, Biden says that he will have a Global Democracy Summit. I think it is wrong to use ideology in the 21st century to divide the world into different camps. It is backward-looking to divide the U.S., EU and Japan on one side, and China and the developing world on the other," Yuan observed.

Yuan noted that ideology is one metric that may be outdated in gauging different nations, suggesting "Instead, we need new standards to judge relations. How about digital, cyber, or even deep sea and outer space? There are so many new areas to judge relations. But both countries need to go beyond the traditional thinking so that we can drag the China-U.S. relationship out of those traps like ideology."

Yuan also asked the Chinese people themselves to embrace new metrics to measure the nation against others, saying "With the rise of China, how can we understand ourselves and how China affects the world. We need a comprehensive understanding of ourselves. Rather than just pursuing an economically strong China, we also need a more benign and attractive image of China. That is China's new stage in the world."

China and the U.S. may be competing in many aspects, but the ability to cooperate with allies and with each other may be the most important metric of all.

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