外交部原副部长疾呼要扭转中美“自由落体”,争取合作空间

2020-12-23 07:41

中美战略竞争并非中方所愿,那是美国多年反思两国关系之后得出的战略判断,或者说误判,短期内恐怕难以改变。既然如此,现在的关键是如何把竞争关进笼子,扭转两国关系的“自由落体式”下滑,同时通过对话和建立信任措施争取和扩大必要的合作空间。

拜登上台为中美对话提供了机会,双方需要冷静思考两国关系“从哪里来、到哪里去”的问题,努力避免新冷战,重新开启合作空间。当然,盲目认为美国新政府上台就会改变一切是没有依据的。

这次美国大选深刻揭示出,美国国内政治极端化和社会分化已经引发前所未有的资本主义危机,贫富差距持续扩大,不平等现象不断恶化,身份政治、民粹主义、“美国优先”继续占据美国政治主流。特朗普7300万得票说明,美国社会分裂已经固化,底层百姓与精英的对立、劳动与资本的对立会愈演愈烈,并将继续影响美国的国内外政策,拜登新政府解决国内问题、调整对外政策将面临重重困难,中美关系调整空间也会受到制约。

两国需要从战略和行动两个层面来重新认识、稳妥处理两国关系,以创造两国积极合作、和平竞争的新格局。目前要考虑为竞争建立有框架、底线和规则的“笼子”,防止恶性竞争和失去控制。这是推动两国关系转圜积极并非消极的做法。

首先,要以底线思维承认和厘清两国竞争关系。中美竞争客观存在,理想化世界并不存在。未来是竞争合作还是合作竞争,能否扩大合作空间,实现和平竞争,取决于两国的政策互动。

两次世界大战浩劫和美苏冷战告诉我们,中美必须和平共存,避免卷入你死我活的零和竞争,尤其不能进行冷战或热战,否则对中美和世界都是灾难。中国国家领导人给拜登的贺电强调,希望中美秉持不冲突、不对抗、相互尊重、合作共赢的精神,聚焦合作,管控分歧,推动中美关系健康稳定向前发展,讲的就是这个道理。这也是“笼子”的底线。

其次,需要正确认识文化差异和意识形态异同,减少敌意,避免陷入意识形态竞争。目前,两国人民对对方的负面情绪严重,加上美国单方限制和新冠疫情因素,双方人员交往和人文交流陷于停滞,连留学生都受到很大影响。民主党要员和重要智库对华表态的意识形态色彩颇浓,令人堪忧。

坎贝尔和苏利文去年在《外交事务》上撰文称,中国在意识形态上对美国构成比苏联更大的挑战。对中国文化缺乏了解和犹太教-基督教文化的优越感,使美国两党精英对根植于中国文化的中国政治、社会制度存有偏见,往往从对立的角度看待与美国不同的文化和政治制度。这种“山上灯塔”的思维模式不改变,美国对华认知就会跑偏,误判就会发生。

在这方面,一要停止奢谈“冷战”或者“热战”,为两国关系紧张状态降温。美国意识形态浓厚的冷战式讲话不断,严重恶化了两国关系的生态环境,导致两国人民负面情绪增高。美国新政府要对候任官员和重要智库进行约束和引导,正面客观盘点评论中美关系现状和未来,为两国关系重置创造平衡客观的舆论环境。

二要客观认识两国文化和意识形态差异,避免意识形态置顶两国关系。美国新政府候任官员和民主党资深人士鼓动美国以意识形态划线,联合盟友共同对付中国,譬如建议“技术12国集团”(T12),在高新技术领域以排挤和打压中国;在印太强化美日印澳四国对话并推动建立针对中国的四国联盟:在贸易谈判中,重点要求中国改变所谓“国家干预”的发展道路。这种把文化差异与意识形态异同划等号,给中国贴上“非民主国家”标签的思维模式,只会将中美关系引入死胡同。

再则,要考虑尽快在共同利益领域有选择地采取并行务实的建立信任措施,弥补严重的“信任赤字”,并展开对话寻求合作的契机和空间。这既是为合作争取机遇和空间,也是为有序、和平竞争创造条件。这是发挥“笼子”的稳定器作用。

中美关系几十年稳步发展的启示是,中美不是一战前的英德,也不是冷战期间的美苏,双方具有根据局势变化寻求利益契合点并开展合作的成功经验。现在契合点与合作空间依然存在。

似可考虑先易后难、有选择地展开对话并采取建立信任措施:

一要尽快恢复人文交流和人民交往,包括支持互派留学生。国之交在于民之亲,如果两国关系的民意基础遭到破坏,且不加以及时修复,合作将成为空中楼阁。

二要把共同应对新冠疫情作为紧迫任务,在疫苗研发分配、防治、国际健康码互认等方面紧急展开合作,并积极商讨如何加强世卫组织作用,建立有效疫情应急机制,为未来新的病毒来袭做好准备。

三要尽早恢复贸易谈判,并就两国供应链因受美国对华战略变化和新冠疫情冲击而需要适度调整进行对接。两国经济贸易事关重大,谈判内容和方式要务实可行,真正有利于两国人民。

四要展开金融对话,防范金融风险演变成金融危机。两国在2008年金融危机期间同舟共济抗击危机至今历历在目。对话的现实意义是化解巨大的全球金融风险。美元贬值和资本市场大起大落在所难免,防范新金融危机发生、避免世界经济长期谷底运行是共同挑战。中美应再度推动G20发挥“全球经济治理首要平台”的领导作用。

五要就网络安全开展对话与谈判。网络安全事关两国国家安全和国计民生,对话具有紧迫性和实际意义。对话内容可考虑制定规则防止网络攻击、确立网络攻击构成战争行为的门槛、探讨建立全球网络治理规则和治理体系、建立危机管控平台就网络安全及可能出现的问题及时沟通协商。

六要恢复和加强应对气候变化领域的合作,为国际社会减少气候变化带来的危害发挥表率作用,并与欧洲和其他国家携手合作,寻求应对挑战的思路和办法。中国领导人在最近的气候雄心峰会上发表重要讲话,提出“团结一心、提振雄心、增强信心”三点倡议,并宣布了中国到2030年的减排等目标。希望美国新政府能与中国携手,助力《巴黎协定》行稳致远。

中美两国应该有足够的智慧和意愿充分利用新机遇,只要双方正确认知中美关系的新格局、新发展,脚踏实地为两国和平共存、和平竞争、多面合作创造条件,就必能造福两国人民和世界各国。


以下为英文版

Cooperation in a Cage

By He Yafei

Strategic competition is not what China wants. That is a misjudgment based on U.S. retrospection about bilateral relations over the years — which may not change in the near term. The crux now is how to cage the differences and arrest the free-fall, while at the same time striving for cooperation via dialogue and confidence-building measures.
The inauguration of Joseph R. Biden on Jan. 20 will provide an opening for renewed China-U.S. dialogue. Both sides need cool heads as they consider where we've come from and where we're going. They should make every effort to avoid a new cold war, while expanding the space for cooperation. Of course there's no basis for assuming blindly that a new U.S. administration will instantly change everything.

This year's U.S. general elections exposed the unprecedented multiple crises facing capitalism, triggered by political radicalism and the polarization of society. The wealth gap continues to widen; equality is steadily deteriorating; identity politics, populism and “America First” remain mainstream. The 73 million votes cast for Trump show that the polarization of American society has solidified. Antagonism between the elite and those at the bottom layer of society and between labor and capital will become increasingly fierce, and will continue to influence U.S. domestic and foreign policy.

The Biden administration will face daunting challenges in resolving domestic problems and adjusting foreign policy. Adjustments to China-U.S. relations will also be subject to constraints.

The two countries need to reevaluate and prudently, position themselves to handle bilateral ties at the levels of both strategy and action. A new pattern is needed in which they can engage both in active cooperation and peaceful competition. The present imperative is to build a “cage” — a framework with bottom lines, and rules — to prevent vicious competition from getting out of control. This is a positive way to turn around bilateral relations.

First, proceeding from bottom-line thinking, the two countries' competitive relationship should be acknowledged and clarified. China-U.S. competition is objective existence; an ideal world simply does not exist. Whether their future will be competitive cooperation or cooperative competition, and whether they can enlarge the space for cooperation and realize peaceful competition hinge on policy interactions.

The two devastating world wars and the U.S.-Soviet Cold War teach us that China and the U.S. must coexist in peace and avoid getting bogged down in mutually diminishing zero-sum competition — especially cold or hot wars. Anything less will be disastrous for both countries and the world. This was precisely what President Xi Jinping meant when he emphasized in his congratulatory telegram to Biden that he wishes for China and the U.S. to proceed in a spirit of no conflict, no confrontation, mutual respect and win-win cooperation. They should focus on cooperation, manage differences and promote healthy and steady development of bilateral ties. This is a bottom line of the cage.

Second, the two countries need to have a correct understanding of their cultural and ideological differences to reduce hostility and avoid sinking into an ideological quagmire. Currently, swaths of people in the two countries have developed negative feelings about each other. Unilateral restrictions by the U.S. side, as well as the pandemic, have brought bilateral personnel and people-to-people exchanges to a virtual halt, even affecting students seeking to study overseas in either country. It is worrying that key Democratic Party figures and major U.S. think tanks are making ideologically charged statements against China.

In a jointly signed article in Foreign Affairs, Kurt Campbell and Jake Sullivan claimed that China presents a greater ideological challenge to the U.S. than the former Soviet Union. Ignorance about Chinese culture and the Judeo-Christian sense of cultural superiority have led to prejudice against the Chinese political and social systems among U.S. elites in both major political parties. Many now look at cultures and political institutions that are different from their own from a perspective of confrontation. If the “shining city on a hill” thinking doesn't change, U.S. understanding of China will go awry and misjudgments will inevitably follow.

In this regard, the first imperative is to stop fixating on talk about cold war or hot war and deescalate present tensions. The persistent ideologically charged Cold War-style rhetoric on the U.S. part has severely worsened the biosphere of bilateral ties and resulted in increasingly negative feelings on both sides.

The new U.S. administration should restrict and guide officials-in-waiting, and major think tanks, so that they can evaluate and make comments on the present and future of China-U.S. relations from a positive and objective perspective to create a balanced, objective public opinion environment for resetting the relationship.

Second, cultural and ideological differences between the two countries should be read rationally, to prevent ideology from becoming an overriding priority in bilateral ties. Some would-be members of the upcoming new U.S. administration, as well as Democratic Party veterans, are advocating rallying allies along ideological lines to jointly cope with China — for example, excluding and suppressing China in the field of high technology, with a “technology group of 12”; enhancing U.S. dialogue with Japan, India and Australia in the Indo-Pacific to promote a four-nation alliance against China; and focusing in trade negotiations on asking China to change its development path featuring “state intervention.” This model of thinking, which mistakes cultural differences for ideological ones and labels China as “non-democratic,” will only drive China-U.S. relations to a dead-end. This is the framework of the cage.

Third, the two sides should consider taking parallel, pragmatic confidence-building measures as soon as possible in selected areas of common interest, patch up any serious trust deficits, expand dialogue and look for opportunities for cooperation. This will create conditions amenable to orderly, peaceful competition and function as the stabilizer of the cage.

One inspiration that can be drawn from the steady progress of China-U.S. relations over the decades is the two countries are not like Britain and Germany before World War I, nor like the U.S. and Soviet Union during the Cold War. The two have successful experiences in seeking points of convergence based on cooperation in the face of changes in conditions. Such points of convergence and room for cooperation still exist.

It may be advisable to proceed from the easy to the difficult —that is, to selectively conduct dialogue and take confidence-building measures:

First, restore cultural and people-to-people exchanges as soon as possible,starting with the acceptance of foreign students for study. State-to-state relations are built on good feelings between peoples. If the public-opinion foundation of the relationship is undermined and is not repaired in a timely manner, cooperation will become castles in the air.

Second, taking COVID-19 as a pressing joint battle, the two countries should engage in emergency cooperation in such aspects as vaccine research and development, distribution of vaccines, prevention and treatment and mutual recognition of international health codes. They should actively discuss how to strengthen the role of the World Health Organization, establish efficient pandemic response mechanisms and improve preparedness for future epidemic attacks.

Third, trade negotiations should be resumed as soon as possible, and consultations on adjustments in the two countries' supply chains, which have been disrupted by changes in America's China strategy and shocks from the pandemic. Given the significant influence of bilateral economic and trade ties, both the content and format of negotiations should be pragmatic and feasible to truly benefit people of both countries.

Fourth, dialogue on financial concerns is needed to prevent financial risks from evolving into a financial crisis. The two countries' close collaboration during the 2008 financial crisis remains fresh in memory. The practical significance of such dialogue is to preempt tremendous global financial risks. Depreciation of the U.S. dollar and dramatic ups and downs in capital markets are inevitable, so preventing a new financial crisis that keeps the world economy operating at rock bottom in the long term will be a challenge.

China and the U.S. should again promote the G20's leadership role as a primary platform for global economic governance and facilitate a steady opening of the Chinese financial market, including a massive inflow of U.S. capital and subsequent risk management.

Fifth, dialogue and negotiations on network security are necessary.Cybersecurity concerns national security and people's livelihoods in both countries. Practical dialogue is imperative. It's content should include making rules to prevent cyberattacks, establishing the threshold for when cyberattacks constitute acts of war, exploring rule-making for global network governance and corresponding mechanisms and building a crisis- management platform for timely communication and consultation on cybersecurity issues that have already arisen or may arise.

Sixth, restore and enhance cooperation in coping with climate change. China and the U.S. should be exemplary in the international community for reducing damage induced by climate change. In collaboration with Europe and other nations, they should find ways to meet the challenges. President Xi delivered an important speech at the recent Climate Ambition Summit, during which he proposed to “close ranks,” “raise ambition” and “boost confidence” and announced China's emissions reduction goals for 2030. Hopefully the incoming U.S. administration will join hands with China to facilitate implementation of the Paris agreement.

By now, China and the U.S. should have developed sufficient wisdom and political will to take full advantage of new opportunities. So long as both sides have an understanding of new patterns and new developments in bilateral ties, and so long as they earnestly strive to create conditions for peaceful coexistence, peaceful competition and multifaceted cooperation, they certainly can bring benefits to people on both sides and the world at large.


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