Two folksy thoughts on US-China relation existed for decades but now being questioned as the two great nations took a sharp turn in their current relation towards a cliff facing a deadly fall. In the U.S., folks used to believe that their nation is so great, far more advanced than China; the US way of life will induce Chinese people to follow their footsteps to convert China to become more like the U.S. in ways similar to most Atlantic nations and some Asian countries like Japan and South Korea. In China, on the other hand, folks used to believe that their nation has been so weak, far weaker than the U.S.; they must work hard to become a middle income nation and keep focusing on economic development like many other developed nations did to become as rich as Americans. These folksy beliefs however were somewhat countered by a different ‘official’, ‘elite’ or ‘think tank driven’ notion. In the U.S., the notion is that a communist system is a dictator system which will never change unless the leader is toppled or the regime is changed, hence a communist country will always be an enemy of the U.S. This notion is repeated in every presidential election year with Russia and China being the targets. In China, the official notion is that the U.S. will always behave like an imperial nation trying to dominate the world, putting American national interest far above everyone else’s. The American government will ask you to do what they say but not to do what they do.
Therefore, the US-China relations had never gotten more than a lukewarm mutual recognized relationship. China tried seriously to improve relationship but cautiously concerned with the US China policy treating Taiwan more as a US military outpost than a province of China making Taiwan as a thorn on China’s sea fare side. The citizens of two nations interacted fairly well with exchange students, inter-race marriages and gradual understanding of the cultural differences. However, the interactions of citizens have little effect on the governments’ foreign policies both in China and in the U.S. with their media ignoring their citizens’ opinion in different ways. Therefore, the official US-China relation remain to be lukewarm but it didn’t get any worse for decades until now. China was very cautious (low-key) in her nation building process and the U.S. was pre-occupied by many other international issues until she had recognized that China’s economy had surpassed Japan to be the number two in the world in merely two decades. Surprised and envious about China’s rapid rise may have stimulated the government’s strong reaction.
For three or four decades, the US-China relation has indeed been seesawing up and down when encountered with international affairs but never broken. But today, the headline news in the U.S. about the US-China relation tends to paint a hostile story - China is a threat. China is rising too fast using unfair practices. China is the culprit causing the US domestic ills by stealing her manufacturing jobs. Thus, the U.S. is launching a trade war, specifically against China and her developmental plan – China manufacture 2025, to prevent China catching up with the U.S. China, on the other hand, claims that she deserves to have their Chinese dream, rising peacefully. She is contributing to the world economy and prosperity by working diligently since joining the World Trade Organization (WTO). China claims that she will never kneel to imperialism like a century ago (forced to sign unfair trade treaties under the naval gun power of the imperialists) and she will rigorously defend her sovereignty and hard earned achievement by retaliating against any tariff war or any war. Therefore, the U.S. and China appear now pushing each other towards a dangerous cliff. Histories have taught us world wars had been started under such a sentiment. Citizens of two countries cannot help be concerned that the U.S. and China may break out an all out trade war hurting each other even possibly a military war leading to mutual destruction.
War can be started by emotional flare but it also can be avoided by cool logic thinking. It is time for the U.S. and China to do just that. The best way to obtain a fair and logical analysis is to conduct a ‘reciprocal thinking process’ (RTP). Of course, this RTP should not just be applied on the military confrontation where the thought process is primarily focused on willing a military war. The RTP must be applied on a higher strategic level where the objective is to understand the thinking of the other side, why the two nations develop tension and how the tension may be reduced to avoid war, even possibly finding win-win solutions to improve the two nations’ relation and to obtain mutual benefits. Put in a folksy description: We must put ourselves in each other’s shoes and wear each other’s hats to think, walk and act so to feel how each may appreciate how the tension is generated and how it may be reduced. In the following, we will try to conduct a RTP on the US-China relation in technology and trade.
The U.S. claimed her independence from British colonial control by revolution. She became a great nation through ‘acquisitions’ more or less justified by imperialistic behavior prevalent during the colonial era (America 1492-1820 World 1492-1945 Decolonization 1945-1999). To some degree, the U.S. has refrained from being an aggressive colonial power like U.K, France, Germany, Spain, Portugal, Japan and other nations. The U.S. did acquire territories through border conflict or acquisition but she ultimately maintained peaceful relations with her two major neighbors, Canada and Mexico. Thus, the American citizens were taught not to think their country as an imperial nation but a country welcoming immigrants against colonialism. The U.S. is rich with resources and blessed with huge amount of farm land allowing them to become a big agriculture exporting nation. The U.S. is a big nation with relatively a small population; hence their agricultural products meet more than her own needs. With technological advances, the surplus is huge. The US government uses subsidy to regulate agriculture production, to maintain prices of farm goods to allow farmers to make a good profit. That policy is for the interest of the U.S. not for the needy countries or world food supply. The U.S. led the allies to fight WW II and was the only country spared with war damage on her continent other than the surprise attack of Pearl Harbor by the Japanese military. The WW II victory had propelled the U.S. as the de facto world leader strong militarily and in most areas of technology. Her persistent fight against the expansion of communism not only collapsed the Soviet Union but further secured her position as the strongest nation leading the world. It is understandable that the U.S. treasures and desires to preserve her leadership position.