Global Times (9 February 2021) – US President Joe Biden said in a CBS interview on Sunday that China and the US “need not have a conflict but there is going to be extreme competition.” Biden also said, “I’m not going to do it the way Trump did. We are going to focus on the international rules of the road.”
Different people have seen different things from what Biden said. Some people focus on his emphasis that China and the US “need not have a conflict” and believe this is different from the Trump administration. Others focus on “extreme competition,” claiming that Biden has sent a tough signal to China.
But in the Global Times’ opinion, Biden has predicted that there will be “extreme competition” between China and the US. Yet he has set a bottom line for this, which is to avoid turning such competition into a major power conflict. He also said he would replace Trump’s approach with “international rules.” Thus the question boils down to this one: What are international rules?
To be honest, China is not afraid of competing with others, no matter how fierce the competition might be. China has always been serious in abiding by international rules. It is the most ideal state for China’s development that all countries compete with one another in accordance to the rules. This is not a high-profile empty talk, but the deepest part of China’s values. Almost all Chinese elites have fought their way through the harsh rules of gaokao, or college entrance examinations. Respecting the rules is in the blood of the Chinese nation. It has become our starting point of dealing with international rules.
China’s reform and opening-up can be seen as a long march for the country to understand and integrate into the international rules. China joined the WTO, abided by the internationally recognized rules and developed all the way to a major trader worldwide. China has never challenged any major international rules. Even if some rules were not favorable to China at the beginning, our philosophy is to adapt to them and eventually become skilled in applying the rules.
The US’ biggest problem is that it puts its own interests at the center of international rules. If the rules benefit the US, the rules will continue to be rules. If they are perceived to be unfavorable to the US, the country will turn against these rules. Therefore, the US has had the most conflicts with international rules in recent years. It withdrew from international organizations and treaties and constantly changed its own order. Washington’s neglect of rules has repeatedly shocked the international community.
Rules apply to all countries. The system of United Nations should be the most authoritative starting point of the international rules. But which country is more respectful to the UN, China or the US? Which country has more conflicts with international multilateral organizations, China or the US?
The answers are obvious.
If the new US administration emphasizes rules so much, it should respect the original intent of international rules first thing first. It should not equate international rules with US interests and turn them into a veneer of legality and a global passport to take care of the US national interests.
In the past few years, Washington has shown increasing ideological offensiveness. It used some domestic institutional elements of Western-style democracy to measure international rules and strengthened the US’ definition of rules. When the US talks about rules, it often involves interference in China’s domestic affairs or rudely undermines China’s normal cooperation with some other countries. Washington does not intend to use rules to promote communication and balance of interests between China and the US, the two major powers with different political systems.
Has the US resorted to any rules in its moves to list Chinese companies including Huawei on its Entity List and to publicly call on allies to suppress the Chinese tech giant? We hope the Biden administration abandons the rude manners of the Trump administration and respects the rules to create new space for China and the US to engage in benign rules-based competition – in a bid to profoundly reduce uncertainties in international relations.
China and the US have huge trade and cooperation. The US is the stronger side in bilateral relations. How can China-US relations be maintained under the logic that China has been violating the rules? China sincerely wishes the two countries will have a win-win outcome, whether cooperating or competing with each other.
China almost started from scratch. But with its hardworking people who are willing to contribute to the country of their own, China has developed fast. This is in line with the rules of how human society develops. The US will never succeed if it wants to set up rules to stop China from developing and stop the Chinese people from attaining a better life.