Editorial : A new challenge facing the Beijing authorities

【明報專訊】THIS year marks the 40th anniversary of both the beginning of the Reform and Opening Up policy and the publication of the Joint Communiqué on the Establishment of Diplomatic Relations. However, as can be seen from the ongoing trade war and the strongly worded speech made by US Vice President Mike Pence last week, the relationship between China and the US is facing its biggest challenge since the establishment of relations 40 years ago. There will be a new, monumental challenge facing the leaders of the national government in Beijing when China furthers the Reform and Opening Up policy against this backdrop.

In the early 1970s, Mao Zedong and Richard Nixon opened the door to the establishment of Sino-US relations primarily out of consideration for security. The decision to go down the path of Reform and Opening up provided a new way of thinking for the establishment of Sino-US relations. Under such a new line of thinking, the top priority was to create an international environment conducive to Reform and Opening Up, and national security was not as emphasised as before. The establishment of Sino-US relations began to transcend the area of strategic security and became an important criterion for the success of Reform and Opening Up.

The establishment of relations between China and the US helped China to open up. With the help of external influences, China's modernisation sped up. Deng Xiaoping once emphasised that the cooperation with the US was strategic rather than tactical or temporary. He described the establishment of Sino-US relations as "an aspect of great importance indeed". The development of Sino-US relations was closely related to Reform and Opening Up in an unprecedented way. Reform and Opening Up was a big system, to which Sino-US relations were subordinate.

The US once pinned high hopes on China's Reform and Opening Up. It hoped to influence the political direction of China and change its political system and ideology by way of full economic, cultural and social interactions. However, 40 years on, it is obvious that the US is hugely disappointed. Not only does a stronger China fail to resemble the US, but it is also stepping further and further away from the US model. It is mounting a full-on challenge to the US in areas like the economy, science and technology and even politics. The US might have hoped that China would become a country like Germany or Japan after the Second World War. It did not understand that contemporary Germany and Japan are not the result of internal development. They are the result of war. Even Russia has not developed in a way the US has wished since the disintegration of the Soviet Union. To put it simply, the peaceful rise of China is a completely new model, and the US does not have a way to deal with that.

With the US pressing forward steadily with brinkmanship, it is highly likely that China is facing a new Cold War situation. Still, it should adhere to the strategy of "focusing on economic development as long as there is not a full-scale invasion". Given China's power today, it is completely capable of staving off any invasion. Its market size and economic power mean that it cannot possibly be completely isolated or contained unless it closes its own doors. After renewed accommodation and adjustment, the two countries are expected to find new ways to get along with each other. It is not inevitable that they will fall into the Thucydides Trap.

明報社評2018.10.08:中美交惡下改革開放 是對北京的全新考驗







further : to help sth to develop or be successful

open the door to sth : to provide the means of getting or reaching sth

conducive : making it easy, possible or likely for sth to happen

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