Wang Huiyao: China is not a threat to the international community – the world can benefit through China’s development

June 02 , 2020

The successful conclusion of China’s “Two Sessions” has signaled confidence in the fight against the pandemic and recovery of the world economy. However, the pandemic has posed challenges to globalization and increased uncertainty in China-US relations.

Recently, Wang Huiyao, president of the Center for China and Globalization (CCG), was interviewed by Das Erste, the flagship national television channel of the ARD association of public broadcasting corporations in Germany. During the interview, Wang shared his opinions on several topics, including mutual trust between China and the United States, the impact of the pandemic on China-US relations and expectations for globalization. The following article is based on Wang’s answers given in the interview, edited for length and clarity.

Wang was asked about mutual trust between China and the US and whether the two countries are entering a new Cold War.

As Graham Allison, professor of Harvard University and proposer of the concept of the “Thucydides Trap,” said that when the rising powers emerge, there will be competition with existing powers, which can cause conflict, differences between China and the West regarding political and social structures have increased tensions.

Many western countries, especially the US, think that China should integrate itself into the western world as it enters the world stage. With the trend of economic globalization in recent decades, the differences between countries have gradually weakened, while the convergence of market economy and international trade has increased. Certain countries still believe that China has not integrated into the West and therefore attempt to justify sanctions or boycotts of China.

The main reason why globalization is facing resistance is that global economic governance lags behind global economic practice. For example, the huge gap between the rich and the poor, and the expansion rather than the reduction of low-income class in the US, has led to a sense of injustice among many American voters. American people want “fair” economic opportunities, but the increase in wealth brought by the continuous growth of China-US trade has been mainly captured by a small number of people in the US for many years. Hence, trade has not significantly benefited most American people but has created a growing inequality of wealth distribution.

President Trump has used the dissatisfaction of the American people to win political support, and that trade conflict with China is also used as a political tool to increase gain support in the election. He said that China has always been a target of attack during US elections and that in this year’s election, China is once again being brought up for blame and criticism. With the pandemic sweeping the world, I think that global citizens should unite to face our common enemy. Unfortunately, the differences between China and the US regarding political stance has grown, leading to the deterioration of their relations.

Furthermore, in the US, many are talking about a new “cold war”, while in China, this term is mentioned much less frequently. China and the US are in two different narrative systems. With the coronavirus effectively contained in China, China’s economy has gradually returned to normal operation, but there are still some Western politicians who blame China’s irresponsibility for the crisis. The US government should take into consideration China’s efforts to control the pandemic. Moreover, China has contributed to the global fight against coronavirus, China has now become the largest trading nation to many countries including US, to keep the supply value chain open. However, not many people in the US really know the real situation in China as also there is no visitors between the two countries. The expelling of journalists from both countries does not help the situation.

Since President Trump took office, tourism and academic exchange have decreased between China and the US. Furthermore, since President Trump’s visit to China in 2017, in addition to the G20 meeting in Osaka last year, there has not been such a high-level bilateral meeting in a year and that mutual visits of officials are very few now. The outbreak exacerbated difficulties in communications between two countries, while face-to-face meetings are very important for understanding for both sides.

I believe that it would be “setting back history” if the United States forcibly blocks China’s 5G. In the United States, the Wright brothers invented airplanes, Edison invented electric lights, and modern Americans developed the Internet, which have all been applied across the globe. It is impossible for China not to use these technologies, or not to fly Boeing aircraft, or refuse to buy American products for “security reasons. “Meanwhile, 5G is the latest technology of all human beings and should be shared by the world. The trade war, along with a technology war started by the United States, will hurt both China and the US and also the world.

Regarding whether China-US relations have deteriorated due to COVID-19, Wang said:

There are different beliefs, cultures, and values in China and the United States. In many cases, China pursues collectivist values, and individuals often need to consider collective interests. For example, strict implementation of the lockdown of Wuhan city succeeded in controlling the spread of the virus, and Western countries that criticized full lockdown policies may bear a cost of fighting the coronavirus much greater than China.

The US should not expect China to have the same ideologies, as the pandemic shows that China’s response under its collective ideology has been effective. Ideological and cultural differences should not be the reason why China and the United States separate further.

There should be greater tolerance of diversity in governance and politics. The United States is a democratic country, with the White House up for changing party hands every four years, which can often cause inefficiencies and policy conflicts between successive administrations. However, the Chinese government has always been consistent with one five-year plan after another, identifying long term goals for continuous development.

From a historical point of view, the unified and coordinated model of the central government of China has existed for thousands of years in China, and China’s prosperity is also the result of the hard work and deligence of the Chinese people. China’s opening-up will continue and contributes to international trade, creating more opportunities for the world.

On the other hand, China still needs to innovate a new set of narrative theory and explanation regarding is ideology and system, which combines consultative democracy, market economy and technology democracy with one billion smart phone users and social media keep the check and balance. It is important to tell “China’s story” in an internationally understandable way, to better engage and answer questions from the international community and to better explain polarized issues.

Wang shared his thoughts about the future development of China’s Asia and E.U. relations and issues regarding the South China Sea and Taiwan.

We may foresee divisions in globalization and regionalization. On one hand, Asia’s economy has become more prosperous recently, and it is expected to exceed 50% of global GDP this year. Also, China-Japan-Korea relations are developing well and ASEAN has replaced US to become the largest trading partner with China. On the other hand, the World Trade Organization (WTO) faces a serious crisis because President Trump has threatened to withdraw from the WTO, while the pandemic is an unprecedented global crisis for the United Nations (UN). As a result, enormous pressure is put on the process of globalization. Nonetheless, China has supported and maintained multilateralism and actively contributed to globalization. For example, China has been continuously promoting a Free Trade Agreement (FTA) among South Korea, Japan, and China with some positive progress. In the future, China can also strengthen cooperation with the EU and hopefully China can sign bilateral investment treaty and FTA with EU. At the Munich Security Conference (MSC), I have suggested that the EU should become a party to mediate or balance relations between China and the United States, because EU is the largest economy in the world, EU can play a significant role in mediating relations between China and the US to help reach consensus.

Regarding issues around the South China Sea, after the end of the Second World War, China recovered its territorial land and sea once occupied by Japan. The confrontation should be resolved by countries who directly involved instead of third-party countries. A “Code of Conduct in the South China Sea (COC)” can be established by countries in the region.

As for the Taiwan issue, it is China’s domestic affair. It would be very unfortunate if the current US administration intends to undo its One-China policy, which was made by Nixon’s administration and keeps bilateral relations relatively smooth for the last four decades. China and the US need to find a peaceful way to continue to handle with care on bilateral issues, and potentially new ways of cooperation of joint interests need to be established. There is a forty-year diplomatic relationship between China and the US, so the two nations share many common interests and have become each other’s major trading partner. However, we need to constantly enhance communication and exchanges to deal with the challenge of decoupling between China and the US. Both sides need to be calm against rising populism.

I may conclude by encouraging cooperation between China and the US which is vital to our world. Both countries have the responsibility and moral duty to keep the world in peace and prosperity. China has always actively promoted peace and prosperity in the world. It not only develops a prosperous economy domestically but also supports the global value chain and the global economy. China and the US are the two largest economies in the world, and they both need to play a leading role in the inclusive and sustainable development of globalization. The world should gradually acknowledge China’s continuous efforts since China can contribute more than one-third of the world’s GDP growth. China has made achievements in establishing the world’s fastest high-speed railway transportation network and having the world’s fastest 5G system. It can benefit the world by providing the world with cost effective and high-quality products and improving the living standards for the world. China is not a threat to the world.