Will China and the U.S. fall into the Thucydides' Trap?
Editor's Note: As a lawyer, policy adviser, filmmaker and social enterprise pioneer, Laurence Brahm is not only a keen observer but an active participant in China's reform and opening-up. "Laurence Brahm's Diary on China in Change" is a special series dissecting the colossal changes Brahm has witnessed in his 37-year stay in China. In the last episode, Brahm shares his views with CGTN on Sino-U.S. relations.
CGTN: What is the main problem behind the recent tensions between the U.S. and China?
Brahm: I think there's a lot of ideology in the U.S. side. There's a lot of Cold War phobia, an ideology which is about racial, it's religious, it's connected to political ideology – only one system is right, all other systems are not right. And this has been perpetuated by the sort of elites in Washington D.C. I think the average person in the street doesn't think this way, but this is the political narrative which is then projected into the media. China is not driving ideology, China is adopting pragmatism, and while the United States may be becoming more and more ideological.
CGTN: How to overcome ideological differences?
Brahm: I think the important thing for China's leadership and China's media is: don't answer back; do not answer rhetoric with rhetoric; just do what you're doing; be pragmatic and show people that you know how to move forward with your own economy, solving your own problems, and helping others solve them through sharing experiences. And there's a Chinese saying Shui Luo Shi Chu: when the water goes down, you can see the rocks. You don't need to tell them, let them see it.
CGTN: Will China and the U.S. fall into the Thucydides' Trap?
Brahm: I think that if pragmatism can have its way, there is no reason to fall into any trap. I think right now there is a lot of introspection in China: what did we do right and what did we do wrong, and constantly trying to reinvent the Chinese way, or the Chinese approach, to economics, to foreign trade, to foreign relations, and even to the preservation of culture and the environment. And likewise, I think we need more of that introspection. We need more of that introspection in the West. And then we need to try and work together in ways which are pragmatic, aimed at seeking solutions rather than differences.
CGTN: What role can China play to avoid the trap?
Brahm: China is very pragmatic. It's very flexible. It's very quick to respond to situations, to recognize its problems, to adjust it. And when something doesn't work, step back and try it again. So it's very much driven by pragmatism and solving problems as opposed to ideology. If I want to say one word to describe China today through 40 years of reform and opening-up and the direction of China's going in the future, that one word would be pragmatism.
So we see a concept emerging in China, which is very different from the concept in America today of America First – only the self-interest of one country. Today, China's talking about a shared common destiny of mankind. It's an understanding that our global economies are a matrix of interlocking, collaborative, and interdependent systems. And if you want that larger matrix to work as a whole, you have to make sure that everybody is a stakeholder and everybody benefits. And that's what this concept is all about.