Former U.S. diplomat: Missteps by China, U.S. could plunge the world into unprecedented crisis
Updated 22:26, 01-Aug-2021
The flag of the U.S. (L) and the flag of China. /CFP

The flag of the U.S. (L) and the flag of China. /CFP

"The sharp plunge in the bilateral US.-China relationship to the lowest depths in half a century has created a dangerous situation, where missteps by either side or by both could plunge the world into an unprecedented crisis," a former United States ambassador warned during a webinar on Friday.

The webinar, held by Center for China and Globalization, gathered a group of senior officials and scholars to share insights on the development of the most eye-catching bilateral relations between China and the U.S.

'Repair work vitally necessary'

"A starting point to understanding what has happened is to recognize that the United States and China are both in the midst of fundamental transitions that affect their respective places," said J. Stapleton Roy, who served as U.S. ambassador to China from 1991 to 1995.

He said the U.S. was confident for much of the last 50 years but now is seeking to adjust to an international situation, in which it is no longer the sole superpower, as other countries have risen to major power status. "China, of course, is the first and foremost example of that a new multi polar world is emerging."

Roy warned confrontations between China and the U.S., which are also two major nuclear powers, are particularly dangerous. "Repair work by both sides is vitally necessary … as the first step, it would be useful for both China and the U.S. to tone down their rhetoric toward each other."

'Focus on non-economic issues'

Adam Posen, American economist and president of the Peterson Institute for International Economics, pointed out focuses should be put on non-economic issues.

As both the U.S. and China have led the world in recovery from the COVID crisis and are both growing well above-trend growth rates, "this is not a question of either is depriving the other of economic recovery," he said, noting there are no issues of currency conflict, Chinese surplus coming at U.S. expense, or financial instability being promoted from one to the other.

Climate change is "the biggest opportunity for collaboration between China and the U.S.," Posen said.

Roy also pointed some other non-economic issues where China and the U.S. could enhance cooperation, citing the recent meeting between Chinese State Councilor and Foreign Minister Wang Yi and the U.S. Deputy Secretary of State Wendy Sherman.

"If one reads carefully the public reports regarding the consultations. It is evident that there were constructive elements…the two sides can engage in healthy competition cooperate on climate change, drug control and regional hot issues, and strengthen crisis management capacity and avoid conflicts," he said.

'Real cooperation' via multilateral institutions

There are many deeds that can be discussed between China and the U.S., said Zhu Guangyao, China's former Vice Minister of Finance.

Zhu called for "real cooperation" in trade and finance through multilateral organizations such as WTO, World Bank, IMF, and special agencies of the United Nations.

Multilateral cooperation should be promoted because such cooperation maintains the atmosphere of peace and development that the world has won before.

Posen echoed with the idea of multilateral cooperation, referring to the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP).

A well-functioning CPTPP should be a more diversified and multi-inclusive place and not exclude both China and the U.S., he said, adding that this can help the partnership to have higher standards and more openness.

"I think a China- and or U.S.-included CPTPP would reinforce the message to the rich countries or the countries already integrated that they can get on with their businesses or what happens in the rest of the world," Posen said.

"That message is already coming through much too strongly on the vaccination and aid front. So at this time, I would much rather see China and the US put their efforts into being helpful into CPTPP," he added.

Search Trends