First, bilateral cooperation in the areas of economy and trade, culture, and global governance has deepened, which has developed into a stark contradiction with the intensification of the two countries’ strategic competition in the area of Asia-Pacific security. The United States has implemented the strategic rebalance to the Asia-Pacific region in recent years, and has stepped up its vigilance against and constraint of China. The United States has increased its military presence, drills, and surveillance in China’s periphery, consolidated its Asia-Pacific security alliance system, and curried favor with some countries that have territorial disputes or historical grudges with China. The US has involved itself in the South China Sea disputes in a high-profile way, has decided to deploy the THAAD system in South Korea, and has continued to develop military relations with Taiwan. These actions have unavoidably exacerbated China’s suspicions about whether the United States wants to implement a comprehensive “containment” strategy towards China. If an emergency occurs in which the two countries’ militaries or law enforcement agencies collide with one another in the South China Sea or another area in East Asia, this could easily turn into serious strategic confrontation, directly impacting the direction of both countries’ domestic political and economic development, and interrupting the international order.
Second, the striking trend of China-US strategic competition has been getting far greater media coverage and popular attention than encouraging and positive news about the China-US relationship. This contradiction is very natural, particularly with the trend of social media becoming the populace’s main channel for understanding the situation at home and abroad. Also, given the huge differences in social systems and ideologies between the two countries, promoting “good things” about the other country or bilateral exchanges might incur some political risk. Although the Chinese and US governments have been maintaining frequent and smooth communication at their higher levels with a good atmosphere in those exchanges, both countries’ popular public opinion often “does not buy into it”, continuously demanding their respective government to be “tougher” towards the other country. In the process of this year’s US general elections, both parties’ presidential candidates are scrambling to ensure that they will adopt a firmer China policy after winning the election, particularly in economy and trade. This domestic political context and opinion environment has, to a great extent, offset the actual benefits of China-US cooperation and has also increased the difficulty of reaching some strategic agreements. A mistake in any “gesture or motion” in China-US relations could trigger a war of public opinion or political conflict.
The third contradiction is on the level of strategic thinking. In the eyes of many Chinese people, the threat posed by the United States far outstrips any other. Based on this, it is very easy for them to imagine that the United States also regards China as the greatest strategic threat. Actually, looking at the United States’ national security documents, leaders’ speeches, actual diplomatic activities, and military deployments, we see that Middle East unrest, extremism, violent terrorism, and Russia’s challenge have taken up an enormous amount of the United States energy in foreign affairs. China’s rise is one of several big challenges for the United States in the world, and it is an opportunity as well as a challenge. China’s challenge is often not as urgent as other international crises facing the United States. Such a contradiction in strategic thinking easily leads to people exaggerating China’s position in the US global strategy and being overly sensitive to US comments, particularly from China specialists. It also undermines China’s efforts to expand cooperation on the basis of a clear understanding of what the United States needs from China strategically in other areas of the world and on other issues. From a long-term perspective, preventing the United States from regarding China as the largest strategic threat should become an important objective in China’s policy towards US.
The above-mentioned three intense contradictions are nothing new, as they have gone on for more than 10 years. The China- US balance of power is changing, strategic competition is on the rise, and social media is increasingly developed, all of which will intensify the above-mentioned contradictions. We can say that China-US relations have entered a “new normal” in which competition and cooperation grow simultaneously and domestic factors exert a greater impact on bilateral diplomacy.(点击此处阅读下一页)