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Evaluating the Xi-Biden Summit: Perspectives from Chinese academia on future Sino-U.S. relations
Views from ZHENG Yongnian, WU Xinbo, WANG Yiwei, SHEN Yi, SU Ge, WANG Wen
The Xi-Biden summit has captivated global attention over the past week. How does the Chinese academic community view this historic meeting? What are Chinese scholars' perspectives on the potential developments in Sino-U.S. relations following the meeting?
I have gathered the views of six Chinese experts post-summit, who are ZHENG Yongnian, WU Xinbo, WANG Yiwei, WANG Wen, SU Ge, SHEN Yi, either from their interviews or published articles. Due to some readers expressing a desire for brevity in this newsletter, I have selected and translated three key points from each scholar's full interview or article.
These translations were not reviewed by the experts before publication, and I have included their original Chinese statements below and the link for the full-text interview and articles for those interested in studying the nuances of Chinese-to-English translation. If you find any discrepancies in the translations, please feel free to email me: firstname.lastname@example.org
Please note that my selection of these quotes does not necessarily mean I fully agree with every statement made by the experts. I understand that you may not agree with some of their views either, but I believe that understanding perspectives different from our own is valuable. Moreover, these scholars are among the top or most influential in China, and their insights warrant attention from Chinese observers.
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1. Prof. ZHENG Yongnian 郑永年, the Presidential Chair Professor and the Founding Director of the Advanced Institute of Global and Contemporary China Studies (GCCS), the Chinese University of Hong Kong, Shenzhen (CUHK-SZ),
Source: Xiakedao, a social media account run by the overseas edition of the People's Daily
The extensive economic relationship between China and the United States is a result of the logic of capital. Even if direct exchanges are reduced because of temporary administrative interventions, the outcome is that trade between the United States and countries like Vietnam and Mexico has surged, and so has China's trade with these two countries. [GRR’s note: Weijian Shan, one of the most influential private equity figures in Asia, wrote an article on this issue] In essence, goods are merely taking a different route. Reality has shown that the laws of capital and economics cannot be altered by excessively politicized policies.
Some details of this Xi-Biden summit are quite interesting and popular with Chinese netizens. For instance, Biden showing President Xi an old photo from his visit to San Francisco 38 years ago, complimenting the Chinese Hongqi (meaning Red Flag in Chinese) car, all of which are good because they reflect common human sentiments. Such interactions are not possible without face-to-face meetings. President Xi also mentioned that he has known President Biden for many years and their discussions have always been straightforward. All these add a human touch.
Some people in the United States like to create enemies, as if different political systems are bound to pose a threat to American interests. If there is more direct communication between the two countries, these overly politicized statements will lose their audience. Many Americans who have visited China have a different perspective; their understanding of China is not shaped by the so-called cognitive warfare.
2.Prof. WU Xinbo 吴心伯, Dean of the Institute of International Studies and Director of the Center for American Studies at Fudan University.
Source: Global Times
This meeting is the most important diplomatic event between China and the United States since Biden took office. It is conducive to promoting the goal and process management of Sino-US relations during this transitional period and helps to define the boundaries of the Sino-US competition.
The principles of mutual respect, peaceful coexistence, and win-win cooperation proposed by the Chinese side have not been fully accepted by the U.S. side. The U.S. still maintains that it is in fierce competition with China and will continue to strengthen its own capabilities and collaborate with allies and partners in competing with China.
"Stability" has become a temporary consensus between China and the U.S. Given the ever-changing nature of the bilateral relations, stability is indeed an important goal worth striving for at this stage and is an urgent task in managing the relationship between the two countries.
3.Prof. WANG Yiwei 王义桅, Jean Monnet Chair professor, Director of the Institute of International Affairs, and Director of the Center for EU Studies at Renmin University of China.
Source: China News Service
The current political landscape in the United States is clearly divided, and with the 2024 elections approaching, it is difficult to implement some major actions, such as lifting the unreasonable tariffs on China and stopping the suppression of Chinese technology companies.
However, China and the United States have broad prospects for cooperation in addressing climate change, developing new energy sources, artificial intelligence, and many other areas. Treating these issues and issues such as tariffs and technology export control separately is an important outcome of this meeting.
Although some of the old mechanisms may be difficult to restore in the short term, China and the United States can seek institutionalized cooperation in some emerging fields, which is very important.
4.Prof. SHEN Yi 沈逸, Department of International Politics, Fudan University
The easing this time is more about the atmosphere and tempo, but for China, such a relaxation can dispel some of the erroneous rumors circulating in the public opinion field. There are forces that are exploiting and spreading the tense situation between China and the U.S. in various ways, and some in the capital market lack independent judgment, easily swayed by deception and intimidation, and lack necessary resolve. For China, it's important to stabilize this kind of sentiment.
China and the United States need to calmly handle differences and surprises. A negative example of this was the previous 'balloon' incident. Then there's the need to jointly promote cooperative interests: in areas like climate change, artificial intelligence, trade, finance, etc., either restoring or establishing new mechanisms and specifically carrying out cooperation. For instance, in fentanyl control, China has clearly expressed its willingness to cooperate, which is a sign of good faith from China, and we hope for a good-faith response from the U.S. side in return.
Sino-U.S. relations have now entered a new phase. Regardless of how it's described, its core characteristic is that with the overall change in the balance of power and development momentum between the two sides, China is beginning to look at the U.S. as an equal, with more confidence and composure, and is more clearly and distinctly showing the world China's pattern, demeanor, strategy, and breadth of vision.
5.Dr. SU Ge 苏格, former President of China Institute of International Studies (CIIS)；former Co-Chair of Pacific Economic Cooperation Council (PECC), and Chairman of PECC-CHINA.
Cooperation between China and the United States, although not a solution to all the world's problems, is indispensable for resolving all global issues.
The narrowing power gap between China and the United States and the reversal of strategic situations objectively determine the rising aspect of strategic competition and gaming between the two countries.
随着综合国力的提升和全方位外交的开展，中国充分展现了道路、理论、制度、文化方面的自信，对中美关系之塑造力也不断增强，应该也必须有自己的战略定力和耐心 ...... 中国也只有保持稳定，不断发展、壮大自己，才能维护和发展好中美关系。
With the enhancement of comprehensive national power and the development of all-around diplomacy, China has fully demonstrated its confidence in its path, theory, system, and culture. Its influence on shaping Sino-U.S. relations is also growing. China should and must have its own strategic focus and patience ... Only by maintaining stability, continuously developing, and strengthening itself, can China maintain and develop Sino-U.S. relations effectively.
6.Dr. WANG Wen 王文, Executive Dean of Chongyang Institute for Financial Studies at Renmin University of China
Many foreigners are more concerned than Chinese people about the direction of Sino-U.S. relations and are more attentive to the details of interactions between these two major powers. In contrast, an increasing number of Chinese people are beginning to view the Sino-U.S. competition with a sense of calm, which is exactly the attitude we should have towards the United States.
The trade and technology wars of the past five or six years have shown that while the United States can influence China, it cannot dictate to China. An improved U.S. policy towards China might be beneficial for China's development, but it won't bring about a revolutionary boost to China's rapid economic growth; continued U.S. pressure on China might be detrimental, but it is unlikely to crush China.
China should adopt more strategies of “engagement” with the United States. There should be more unrestricted interactions between Chinese and American people, and more Americans should be encouraged to enter China. Increased contact with China may lead others to better understand China's national strength and societal conveniences, as well as the difficulties and hardships China faces. In this regard, reforming the foreign affairs approval system at all levels, facilitating Sino-U.S. cultural exchanges, and overcoming various conditions to encourage grassroots Sino-U.S. exchanges are becoming increasingly urgent.