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Donald Trump

China and the US should work together to achieve mutual gain

There are fears that relations between Beijing and Washington could become so adversarial that a new cold war could develop. But it is not in the interests of either country to perceive one another as enemies

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 30 September, 2018, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 30 September, 2018, 12:00am

Chinese have contributed much to US greatness and the reverse is also true. But United States President Donald Trump has no regard for such accomplishments with his trade war, labelling China as a rival and adversary, and Beijing is understandably fighting back. The result is that officials on both sides are taking an increasingly hawkish view that is filtering through society, fuelling suspicion and mistrust. There is every need for calm and reason.

Trump administration officials and lawmakers have pointed to Chinese companies, organisations, academics, researchers and students as security threats. Politico claims that the president said at a private function last month that almost all Chinese students at American colleges were spies.

The director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, Christopher Wray, said in February that the matter was a “whole of society threat”, while his Central Intelligence Agency counterpart, Gina Haspel, contended this week that Beijing was “working to diminish US influence”. Such sentiments have a knock-on effect; a Pew Research Centre survey taken before Trump began imposing tariffs on Chinese goods showed just 38 per cent of Americans viewed China favourably, down from 44 per cent last year.

Caught in the middle: Chinese-Americans feel heat as tensions flare

Ethnic Chinese living in the US and elsewhere are bound to feel uneasy and perhaps even unwelcome, no matter whether they are on short-term visas, born in the US or from families which migrated generations ago. Their discomfort is heightened by Beijing’s growing international confidence and sensitivity towards foreign criticism. A row between Chinese tourists and staff at a Swedish hotel recently turned into a diplomatic incident, with the Chinese embassy stepping in amid claims of racism. Beijing has also been accused by some Western governments of trying to influence politicians, academics, think tanks and the media.

Perceptions of ethnic Chinese have not been helped by President Xi Jinping and other senior officials calling on the diaspora to assist with “the rejuvenation of the great Chinese nation”. Such calls unfairly raise questions about loyalty and fuel suspicions that lead to accusations of spying. There have been a number of cases in the US of scientists and academics wrongly being charged with espionage. If nationalist sentiment in China gets out of hand, foreigners can also feel intimidated.

There are fears that relations between China and the US could become so adversarial that a new cold war could develop. But China’s strategic intent is for a peaceful rise. It is not in the interests of China and the US to perceive one another as enemies. They should be working together for mutual gain and to solve the world’s problems.