Letters to the Editor: How the U.S. has a chance to change course with China
Jonathon Lenett

Editor's note: This is a letter from Jonathon Lenett, who is an English teacher at Beijing Haidian Shangli Foreign Language School and has lived in Beijing since 2017, sharing his thoughts about China-U.S. relations.

U.S. President Joe Biden made a selection for who he wanted to nominate as the next U.S. ambassador in China. He chose to nominate Nicholas Burns. Burns, a professor at Harvard, was seen as a great choice. Amongst the U.S. academic community, Burns is someone who is respected. People listen strongly to what he has to say.

On top of that, Burns served in the State Department previously. Combined with experience on the job and an immaculate amount of knowledge, Burns made for the perfect nomination for the president. While being asked about China at the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, he reiterated his position of "strong competition" with China. Setting the tone in terms of "competition," is not the best approach, though.

I am going to make the argument against using this dangerous and irresponsible word to describe China-U.S. relations. Nicholas Burns made a serious mistake by stating how we are going to "compete with China and cooperate when it's beneficial for both countries." This approach sets a negative tone for further cooperation.

As an American living in China, I know how important it is to be willing to engage with others. China is my host country and I must respect the local culture and customs. The U.S. government needs to open its eyes and realize that China has a long history of over 5,000 years. If we want to work with others, we have to change our mindset. One can't go into something saying that "we are going to compete and compete." 

From my experience in the country, I know that China is more than willing to work with the U.S. China is a generous country that provided billions of COVID-19 vaccine doses to many developing countries around the world.  We have the chance to change our trajectory with China. The U.S. government can change its rhetoric towards China. Doing this requires a shift in its mentality.

Nicholas Burns' approach towards China was flawed. Progress can only happen with a willingness to cooperate. I think it is time for the U.S. to set a new path in China-U.S. relations. We can best do this by promoting cross-cultural exchanges. It is important for American boys and girls to come to China and experience this marvelous land for themselves. Cross-cultural exchanges are the best forms of diplomacy.

Jonathon Lenett

An English teacher from the U.S.

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