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17 Jul, 2014

What America can do to earn the trust of China

By Greg Cusack

(People’s Daily Online), July 16, 2014 – I am not an “expert” on China. Rather, I am just a reasonably informed elder citizen who is deeply concerned for the welfare of future generations. It is my earnest prayer that China and the United States will successfully find ways to surmount current tensions and old resentments in order to avoid repeating the sad litany of horrors that so brutalized our world in the 20th century.

Greg Cusack

The US remains a relatively young country. The physical isolation afforded by the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans, and the fact that our nearest neighbors posed no threat, allowed us to focus almost exclusively on internal affairs. Americans are not, unfortunately, particularly knowledgeable about history, even their own. Those legends and remembrances of their past that they do recall tend to celebrate noble themes and deeds.

There is also a distinctly unsettling messianic thread in our collective self-understanding. Because the earliest colonists believed that they had the opportunity to forge a new society free from the poverty, discrimination, and oppression they had experienced in their homelands, they became convinced that they had a mission to also guide others towards societies free from tyranny and oppression. This is a key reason why American rhetoric can assume that lecturing tone which so annoys others. Further, because our critical focus tends to be outwardly directed, we are more likely to recognize other societies’ imperfections than our own. Most Americans seem unaware of how this discrepancy can make our words and actions appear hypocritical to others.

While forging a successful working relationship between the United States and China obviously requires sincere efforts on both sides, I believe that my own country should:

  • Accept China’s repeated requests that we speak and act with mutual respect, sincerely striving to understand and sympathize with the other’s problems, perspectives, and challenges.
  • Speak with the wisdom that can come only with true humility. Americans would profit greatly by practicing genuine self-reflection, especially before attempting to criticize others’ attitude or behavior. Indeed, how can we still believe that the United States occupies a superior moral ground after our repeated military interventions in Viet Nam, Iraq and Afghanistan? The truth is that we are all part of the same flawed human family. No single people or nation has all the answers.
  • Return to its original commitment to support and work through the United Nations. Twice in the 20th Century, American presidents have led efforts to create a world community through which nations could work together in order to avoid the horrors of future wars. Unfortunately, American support of the UN since 1945 has waned as we succumbed to the temptation to act as a self-appointed world policeman.

With China’s rise to great power status, the United States has a fresh opportunity to seek an equal partnership with China in order to more effectively respond to perceived challenges, threats and dangers, including ameliorating the consequences of global warming, limiting – and eventually eliminating – nuclear weapons, and seeking to circumvent explosive regional wars.

In America’s current “pivot to Asia,” I believe we should move to include, rather than exclude, all players with “a stake in the game.” If, on the other hand, we focus on “containing” or “excluding” China, I feel we run the grave risk of repeating the mistakes we made in our treatment of Russia following the devolution of the Soviet Union when other, more cooperative partnership options existed.

As China’s power and role in the world expands, it will be watched – and judged – more critically and not always fairly. China should continue to expand your people-to-people efforts, including encouraging personal vacations, providing educational opportunities, supporting artistic exchanges, etc. The more we all get to know each other as human beings, the less easily will we entertain proposals to harm each other.

China and the United States have the opportunity to demonstrate a new kind of partnership between world powers, one that shatters the failed patterns of the past in which states grow in hostility and misunderstanding.

While not ignoring our differences, we must keep focused on what we have in common: the need to make the future a safer place for all of our children! May we both have the courage to pursue the necessary, hard work of creating the conditions of peace: justice, fairness, and mutual respect. We have everything to gain; if we fail, our children will curse us both!

(The author is a former member of the House of Representatives of Iowa) 

This article is edited and translated from 美国如何获得中国信任与合作, Source: People’s Daily