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Trade Agreements Cannot Effectively Stabilize China-US Relations

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Along with the Sino-US trade representative’s agreement to negotiate in early October, and China’s Vice Minister of Finance Liao Wei went to the United States on September 18 to start an early consultation, there is much news in the US about the agreement between China and the United States.

Donald Trump said on September 17 that China has begun to purchase large quantities of US agricultural products and is optimistic that his government can sign a trade agreement with China before the 2020 presidential election. Earlier on September 12, he said he would consider a temporary trade agreement with China. But he is more inclined to reach a comprehensive agreement. US Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin also said on September 12 that President Trump can reach an agreement with China at any time, but his focus is on reaching the best possible agreement for American workers.

Bloomberg earlier revealed that the White House is considering a limited agreement. The Consumer News and Business Channel (CNBC) quoted a senior White House official as saying that the US “will never” consider a temporary trade agreement with China. Whether it is a temporary agreement or a comprehensive agreement, it is a basic fact that the US is planning to sign an agreement with China.

The trade agreement between China and the United States is indeed beneficial for easing Sino-US relations, but what I want to emphasize here is that Sino-US relations will not return to the past because of the Sino-US trade agreement. In essence, Sino-US relations have opened up a new era of comprehensive confrontation. At the time when the good news of the resumption of negotiations between China and the United States was on the headlines of major media, the confrontation between China and the United States in other fields was sufficient to illustrate the problem.

The UN Security Council unanimously passed a resolution on September 17 to extend the mandate of the UN Assistance Mission to Afghanistan (UNAMA). Previously, the UN Security Council adopted resolutions in 2016, 2017, and 2018. The text of the resolution was clearly written to welcome the international community’s assistance to Afghanistan, including the “One Belt, One Road” plan. However, the resolution removed the words “One Belt, One Road” under the US proposal and joined the support for “enhancing regional connectivity” and committed to “Afghanistan prosperity.”

Kelly Craft, the US ambassador to the United Nations, said after the resolution was passed, “We have not been able to give this mission a stronger and more substantive mandate because a member state insists on using the country’s political priorities in the resolution. The language of the project (“Belt and Road”), rather than highlighting the most effective way to help the Afghan government and people.” After the passage of the resolution, Zhang Jun, the Chinese ambassador to the United Nations, expressed his regret that a few countries refused to maintain the previously agreed text.

China reluctantly used the one-vote veto but voted for the agreement. The US’s ability to remove the words of China’s claims is undoubtedly a slap in the face and a hostile view of China’s hostility.

Another area in which the United States persists in curbing China is 5G. On September 12, US State Department Deputy Assistant Secretary Robert Strayer said that during his visit to Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain, he and the US Federal Communications Commission once again talked about Huawei’s 5G network security risks, saying that the US must ensure To ensure the security of the network framework, Huawei must be excluded from the 5G network. Not long ago, on September 2, the United States and Poland signed a 5G security statement, saying that it is necessary to conduct a “fundamental review by other governments” for 5G suppliers. Despite Trump’s promise to lift the ban on Huawei during the Sino-US leaders’ meeting, the US’s actions to contain Huawei have not stopped.

If the US’s suppression of Huawei indicates that the structural contradictions between China and the United States in the field of technology have completely erupted, then the United States’ continued criticism of the “Belt and Road” is itself a comprehensive confrontation between China and the United States on strategic issues. The United States insists on attacking China on the “One Belt, One Road” issue because it is interpreted as having a certain strategic intent and poses a certain degree of challenge to the global presence of the United States. The hostility of the United States comes from uneasiness.

The Sino-US trade war has fueled the opposition between China and the United States, but the signing of a trade agreement will not achieve the effect of quelling the Sino-US opposition.

In November 2018, when attending the Singapore Economic Forum, former US Secretary of State Henry Kissinger made it clear that US-China relations are now turning from cooperation to confrontation. Then he said in Beijing, “China-US relations will never return to the past and we must reposition.”

In a philosophical sense, it is impossible for a person to step into the same river twice. Of course, Sino-US relations cannot return to the past. However, the Sino-US relationship mentioned here is not a philosophical meaning, but the Sino-US relationship cannot return to the past when the “contradictions are controllable”.

Even though the two parties in the US Congress have different differences, their position on China has become increasingly consistent, that is, China has occupied the top strategic position in US defense.

With the rise of China, the US attitude toward China has long abandoned its full contact. As early as around 2015, the United States, from officials, parliamentarians, think tanks, the military, and even the media, began to discuss whether the policy of contact with China by successive US administrations since Richard Nixon’s visit to China in 1972 failed. Whether the relationship of “cooperation and competition coexist” can continue as the current situation, whether the US government needs to substantially adjust or even change its China policy. After discussion, the American academic, official, and congressional voices almost single-sidedly believe that the big framework of “contact-based and containment supplemented” in the past three or four decades has failed.

The National Security Strategy Report, the National Defense Strategy Report, and the State of the Union Address, which Trump issued after taking office, have officially identified China as the premier “strategic competitor” of the United States and the “revisionist country” of the international order. It rang the clarion of the adjustment of China policy. The trade war is just one part of this new tone. Containment, ban, and confrontation will be the main line of Sino-US relations for a long time.

Whether a temporary trade agreement or a comprehensive agreement is reached, how to develop Sino-US relations is a difficult problem. Therefore, China must have a common sense of trade agreements, prepare for Trump to tear up the agreement again in the future, and respond to the renewed intensification of Sino-US contradictions.

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