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China and the U.S. need to cooperate, but acceptance comes first



Editor's note : U.S. President Joe Biden delivered the first foreign policy speech of his tenure at the State Department on Thursday. In the speech, he called China the "most serious competitor" of the U.S. However, he also stressed that the U.S. is ready to work with China when it's in America's interest. What are the signals from Biden's speech? How will that affect the China-U.S. relationship? Einar Tangen, a current affairs commentator shared his views. Below is an edited version of what he said.

In his foreign policy speech, President Joe Biden called China the "most serious competitor" of the U.S. However, he also claimed, "We are ready to work with Beijing when it's in America's interest to do so."

Such policy requires compartmentalization which means that there's going to have to be a separation between the political issues and the rest of the issues. So, what are the challenges and opportunities for the U.S. and China?

COVID-19. It is important to make sure that China and the U.S. cooperate on COVAX, the UN-sponsored answer to get affordable vaccines to the rest of the world. The two countries also have to look at the economic consequences of that. And that is going to be really difficult as the U.S. is saddled with debt while China's economy is going.

Climate change. John Kerry, former presidential candidate, has been given the title of "climate czar," He believes, as do many others, that climate change is the No. 1 priority because it is an extinction-level event. And he wants to cooperate with China. Hence, on climate issues, there are many opportunities for the two countries to work together.

Peacekeeping. China now provides the second largest contingent of troops to the UN. Chinese ships are safeguarding along the Horn of Africa to make sure that international shipping is safe.

There are many issues where they could cooperate if there is a will. But it's difficult when a state actor says there is a need for cooperation but at the same time says the other part is a challenger and that the values of both parts are not the same.

The issue between the U.S. and China is that the U.S. believes it has the best system. But that system, that has lasted for 40 years, hasn't been producing the best results. Whereas they identify China as having the wrong system. But for the last 40 years, China has been doing very well. There's a conflict that needs to be resolved. There has to be an understanding on all sides. There are many paths to prosperity, and acceptance of the other is the first step.

Right now, there are many opportunities and there are even greater needs for China and the U.S. The question is, will these needs be recognized?

There are people who have dealt with China over a long period of time in Biden's cabinet. They're all professionals. They have experience. But there are very divergent views within the cabinet and the U.S. needs to have a coordinated response to China.


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