Amid continuous tensions, there is still room for bilateral collaboration in multiple sectors
Despite the deteriorated relationship between the United States and China, experts are confident the world's two largest economies can collaborate in many areas for the benefit of both countries and the world.
Kevin Rudd, president and CEO of the Asia Society, proposed a strategic competition framework for the incoming Joe Biden administration during a webinar recently held by his organization.
Within that framework, there is room for collaboration in areas such as climate change, pandemic management and global financial market stability, said Rudd, who previously served as Australia's prime minister and foreign minister.
"Joe Biden and the Democrats are deeply committed to the future of climate change action, and you cannot achieve progress on climate change unless the world's two largest emitters-China and the United States-are not just talking with each other but negotiating with each other and creating the critical leverage necessary to achieve a wider global outcome in terms of the level of greenhouse gas emissions to be achieved globally, as well as the national actions which need to underpin that," Rudd said.
Although the two countries have been experiencing tensions, Rudd said that "we're not in a cold war with China, and perish the thought that we will end up in one".
"Therefore, the relationship now between China and the United States is nowhere as fundamentally adversarial as what we had between the then Soviet Union and the United States," he said. "There are vast differences between that cold war and what we now have with China, not least because of the high degree of economic interdependence between Beijing and Washington still."
He also noted that one of the lessons from the Cold War was how both countries decided to have a mutually agreed set of strategic understandings "after the near-death experience of the Cuban Missile Crisis in the 1960s", which prevented these countries from "sliding into the nuclear abyss".
Rudd's assessment of the state of the relationship was echoed by Evan Medeiros, a professor at Georgetown University and a former National Security Council staff member. "I think they inherited a relationship that's in a pretty bad place, but it's not in total and utter freefall," said Medeiros of the Biden administration.
The entire architecture for communicating with the Chinese has atrophied away under the current administration, and the relationship itself needs a lot of renovation, Medeiros said. But the good news is that the Chinese also want stability and they do not want to go back to the volatility in the confrontation.
"The relationship's in a rough state that needs quite a bit of work, but I see incentives on both sides to find some kind of equilibrium point," Medeiros said.
William Fallon, former head of the US Central Command, said at the webinar that the US-China relationship is going to be the most important one and there are all kinds of opportunities to do some things differently.
Speaking of the policies that President Donald Trump's administration have regarding China, Fallon said he "found little than nothing "in what they have accomplished on this agenda in the last three years.
"The idea that we whacked them, tried to inflict pain, just poked them in the eye because we're unhappy with something seems to be generally counterproductive," he said.
The US side lacks focus and strategic policy directed toward China, Fallon said. The US should spend more attention on themselves and what they want themselves to do particularly in this relationship with China over the next five to 10 years, he said.
The US needs to get out of the reactive business and start doing a little bit of premeditated thinking and acting to put them in a better place than they are apparently headed for, Fallon added.