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China-U.S. relationship needs 'a whole society approach'

Reality Check

 , Updated 21:53, 25-Apr-2024

Editor's note: U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken is visiting China from April 24 to 26. How should we characterize the current state of China-U.S. relations? Has there been real progress made? To get more insight, we went to the themed luncheon roundtable discussion on "Navigating the Future: Strategic Imperatives for Global Resilience," co-hosted by the Center for China and Globalization (CCG) and the Bled Strategic Forum (BSF). We interviewed the president of CCG Wang Huiyao there. Let's see and hear his take on the China-U.S. relationship.

CGTN: U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken is visiting China. This is his second trip to China since taking office. The Treasury Secretary Yellen did the visits a couple of weeks ago. So, how would you characterize the current state of the China-U.S. relationship?

Wang Huiyao: I think (for) China-U.S. relations, I would classify the stabilizing stage, actually, because as we know, after (former) President Trump did this trade war, tariff war, and particularly, he issued a strategic report in 2017 that plays China as the rival number one, basically. And since then, it has been deteriorating.

Of course, three years of the pandemic hasn't helped at all because there was isolation, there was no communication, and also (no) personal exchanges. So I'm very glad to see that after (the) San Francisco Summit between President Xi and President Biden, both sides realized we have to talk because, being the two largest economies in the world, there are so many common challenges that we have to face.

I think it's crucial that leaders of both countries, foreign ministers of both countries, meet and discuss those common issues. I think this is in addition to what Secretary Yellen visited because that covered a lot of economic (and) financing issues. But I think Blinken's visit will cover more on the geopolitical (issues), particularly stability in the Middle East, in Europe, and in Asia. China also has a concern on the South China Sea and also on the China's internal issue of the Taiwan Strait. So all those issues, I think will be discussed, and that can enhance better understanding and communications.

CGTN: To those of us sitting on the outside, sometimes (we) feel like, yes, we're talking to each other, but we are not really making a lot of progress. So for example, just a couple of days ago, President Biden announced that he's going toimpose tariffs on Chinese steel, and there's a bill on TikTok. Problems are popping up everywhere, I mean, even before Yellen's visit, she talked about the "overcapacity" of China'sexports. So has there been real progress made?

Wang Huiyao: No, I think certainly there (has been) progress. It's not as satisfactory, as we can see, but we have to know that the system in the U.S. is different (from) the system in China. 

So then it's very easy to have China as a scapegoat, particularly during election season. So I think that President Biden's remarks on the tariff, on adding more tariffs on the steel and all the other productsis really to accommodate its nationalism, populism, which I think is part of the U.S. politics.

So there's a problem of their own, but what I think is the key is that we need to enhance communication. We need to have more senior officials to come, but we even should have more congressmen, senators, people from states (and) governors to come because that has been diminishing for some time.

Now we need to have more people to come there (here). That would be my thinking that we should really have a whole society approach so that gradually we can stabilize and minimize those negative sentiments. Because right now, it's getting popular to bash China. It's getting popular (in) the elections to be showing toughness, but it's probably barking up the wrong tree because the fundamental problem is you have your own problem. It's not the "overcapacity" of China, as they all thought that, maybe there could be some issue there, but it's not really the real issue. The issue (is) China has a different system, but it works well in China, and that should be coexisted together.

CGTN: From your position here and your experience working with both administration officials and also business people from China and from international communities, what are they hoping for out of this kind of constant dialogue between China and the United States?

Wang Huiyao: I think the (international) CEOs and business communities are really fed up with this poisoning environment. And yet, they cannot say it because if they say it, they will be attacked by the media, (by the) public, by the shareholders of different levels.

CGTN: Say what? The better relationship with China?

Wang Huiyao: Yes. We talked to a lot of representative business communities. They all know China is a big market. They have to be here. They were really enjoying the big progress they made. But they also do not like the CHIPS Act or those (others) because they are losing business here. But then they cannot say it. It's become politically incorrect to say we want to expand in China or do business in China. But still, they are doing that. According to the American Chamber's survey, the majority of companies still want to do business in China. But that phenomenon is not really turning around the whole sentiment. I think that's what I said, it's a whole society approach in order to turn around this sentiment.

Business comes first, the administration comes second, then we probably need the congressmen, senators, we need the governors, we need the mayors, we need the academics, think tanks... within the whole, everybody comes, and student exchange, and tourism. So that we can really have a whole society approach to improve the bilateral relationship.

(If you want to contribute and have specific expertise, please contact us at opinions@cgtn.com. Follow @thouse_opinions on Twitter to discover the latest commentaries in the CGTN Opinion Section.)

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