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US should rethink democracy-versus-authoritarianism take on China: professor



US should rethink democracy-versus-authoritarianism take on China: professor

Li cited former US national security adviser Zbigniew Brzezinski’s position that the most dangerous scenario for the United States would be a coalition of China, Russia and Iran over a shared need to deal with American pressure.

“If that’s the case, the United States will face three enemies – from the east, from the west, from the south. Is that an era or scenario we want to enter? Unfortunately, we’re moving in that direction,” he said.

China has called for a “peaceful coexistence” with the US, a move Li said would resonate well with other countries. “My view is the US needs to review the narrative to serve its best interests,” he said.


China says Fujian carrier is world’s largest conventionally powered warship

China says Fujian carrier is world’s largest conventionally powered warship

Lynn Kuok, the Lee Kuan Yew chair in Southeast Asia Studies at the Brookings Institution, also described Washington’s narrative as “flawed”.

Not only did it unnecessarily deepen tensions between the two rival powers but it also pushed authoritarian countries “who might have more differences between themselves than with the US” closer together, Kuok told the forum.

“If we’re talking about trade disputes or technology disputes or even disputes about how to better handle climate change, we can solve those particular issues as long as the other side isn’t seeming to be an ideological enemy,” she said.

“But when the other side is like the evil one or the enemy, then it becomes very hard to solve even these difficult but still solvable issues.”

Kuok said that the democracy-versus-authoritarianism framing could also complicate Washington’s partnerships in Asia, given that several countries in the region – including Singapore and Vietnam – were not liberal democracies.

Asked about cooperation between China and the US, Kuok said the two countries had shared challenges – such as climate change and artificial intelligence safety – to tackle, and that working together could create habits of communication that could improve ties.

But for collaboration to be meaningful, “cooperation must not be held hostage” to other issues, she stressed.

This was the case when former US House speaker Nancy Pelosi visited Taiwan and Beijing responded by suspending dialogue with the US on a host of issues including climate change. Most of the dialogues resumed after presidents Xi Jinping and Joe Biden met in San Francisco in November.

“If we are to be serious about addressing some of these non-traditional threats, then we need to be able to continue doggedly with pursuit of resolution of those challenges without allowing other thorny issues to derail such conversations,” she said.

“I think it’s clear that we will have to have political will to address these challenges.”


US proposes new round of tariffs on China in latest trade war escalation

US proposes new round of tariffs on China in latest trade war escalation

Graham Allison, a political-science professor at Harvard University, said Washington and Beijing had a common interest in avoiding a nuclear war, a topic that he believed would have been discussed at the November summit.

“In principle, logic should suggest that if my survival requires some level of cooperation with you, however competitive we are, I’m going to manage a relationship that’s both fiercely competitive and deeply cooperative,” he told the forum.

But Robin Niblett, a distinguished fellow and former director of Chatham House, was less optimistic of the great power relationship, saying there was “a sense that each side sees the other as a deeper threat almost inevitable” due to their different systems of governance.

“I think the reality is the two sides are not just confronting each other as military competitors. They are confronting each other … as ideological competitors. Not communism versus capitalism … but it is between top-down governance and bottom-up governance,” he said.

That dynamic meant that the US and China saw each other in zero-sum terms, but there were still gaps of cooperation – areas outside the zero-sum competition.

Niblett cited climate change as one example, saying the more competitive China was in the EV sector, the more it appeared to be undermining American economic competitiveness. However, the two countries could find “a sort of different space” to cooperate in on climate change, such as carbon capture and storage.

“The lanes need to be lanes that don’t tip over into a perception of how you’re strengthening the other side in the geopolitical and ideological competition,” he said.

“It’s very difficult to do but it is the reality. We are in a zero-sum world and if you’re in a zero-sum world, you need answers to find the absolute gains in very targeted areas.”


US President Biden defends calling Chinese leader Xi Jinping a ‘dictator’

US President Biden defends calling Chinese leader Xi Jinping a ‘dictator’

In Shanghai a day earlier, US ambassador to China Nicholas Burns was equally bleak in his outlook, saying it “doesn’t help in international politics if you present a fiction – everything’s okay in this relationship, or it should be okay if you on the other side would just work with us”.

“I would just use the modern US-China relationship as the example of that. We are strategic rivals,” he said at an AmCham Shanghai event, though he listed climate change and global health as issues that the two countries could reach consensus on.

“So as usual, it’s complicated. And when you’re a diplomat on the Chinese or American or European side or Japanese side, you’re managing both parts of the equation. You’re managing conflict. You’re trying to promote areas we can work together. You’re trying to balance that as best you can.

“I think right now, honestly, the issues that fall under the competition label are much more numerous than the cooperation ones.”

Additional reporting by Vanessa Cai

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