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China, U.S. can avoid "Thucydides Trap"
Worries remain that China and the United States -- one an emerging power, the other an established power -- could be susceptible to a struggle that will eventually lead to war.
Greek historian Thucydides described the situation between Athens and Sparta as a combination of "rise" and "fear," which inevitably resulted in war about 2,400 years ago. Over the past 500 years, when a rising power has challenged a ruling power, war has often followed, reinforcing the concept of "The Thucydides Trap."
In the 21st century, however, China and the U.S. could and must avoid falling into this trap, especially against the backdrop of ever-deepening economic globalization and interdependence.
The upcoming 5th China-U.S. Strategic and Economic Dialogue (S&ED), which runs from Wednesday to Thursday, could prove that politics between major powers do not have to be confrontational, even though frictionless interactions between emerging and established powers may be only something of a fantasy.
As the first high-level dialogue since Chinese President Xi Jinping and his U.S. counterpart Barack Obama held a summit in California last month, the event will cover topics ranging from politics, security and climate change to trade, energy, financing and Asia-Pacific cooperation.
Newly-appointed senior officials from both governments will meet to implement the consensus reached at the Xi-Obama summit on building a new model for relations between major powers -- a model that features coordination and cooperation instead of rivalry and confrontation.
It is a long-term and difficult task to translate the consensus into concrete efforts that drive the development of bilateral relations, as differences in political systems, cultural traditions and stages of development can easily contribute to misunderstanding.
Some Americans regard China's development as a sacrifice of U.S. interests, and they have called for containing the emerging economy.
But the development of both economies is not a "zero-sum game." The Asia-Pacific region is big enough to allow the common development of both countries. The bilateral relationship should be based on hope rather than fear, trust rather than doubt.
China is pursuing a path of scientific and peaceful development and has been seeking a model of cooperation that features equality, mutual trust, inclusiveness and mutual benefit.
Facing the downturn of the world economy amid a lingering financial crisis, as well as threats to international and regional security such as tensions and conflicts in certain regions, the world needs to build a more balanced and fair international political and economic order that promotes common development.
Cooperation and coordination among major powers would be especially crucial in this process.
Since the S&ED was launched in 2009, China and the U.S. have discussed strategic, long-term and comprehensive issues that are closely related to the development of bilateral relations, scoring a multitude of achievements in the process.
Strategically, both sides have engaged in communication on issues regarding the Asia-Pacific, the Middle East, security, arms control and military exchanges.
Economically, a series of agreements have been reached that have brought concrete benefits to the people of both sides and injected strong energy into the development of the new model of relations between major powers.
Both governments are expected to demonstrate their political wisdom and diplomatic abilities in the two-day dialogue and generate positive results that not only conform to the interests of both sides, but also to the peace, stability and prosperity of the region and the world.
"The Thucydides Trap" offers a worthy caution, but it is not a tragedy that can not be avoided.
The 21st century will not necessarily mark the rise of China alongside the fall of the U.S., rather, through joint efforts, the two sides can see the great rejuvenation of the Chinese nation, U.S. recovery and a developing world, simultaneously.
[Source: Xinhua, Beijing, 09Jul13]
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