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The most familiar stranger

Writer: Winton Dong  | Editor: Jane Chen  | From:  | Updated: 2018-09-17

Email of the writer: dht0620@126.com

As two of the world’s largest economies, China and the United States are important trade partners and familiar with each other. Trade volume between the two countries reached US$583.6 billion in 2017, almost 240 times the figure in 1979 when they first set up formal diplomatic relations.

Learning English is the prerequisite for China to get familiar with international rules and regulations and draw experience from developed Western countries such as the U.S. and Britain. Since China launched reform and opening up to the outside world in the early 1980s, the country has attached great importance to the study of the English language. As a major course, English is compulsory for primary and middle schools and universities all over the country. In some rich Chinese coastal cities, native speakers are even recruited to teach kindergarteners basic English and American culture.

Meanwhile, despite rising tuitions and fees in the United States over the past years, the Chinese Government remains enthusiastic about sending promising officials to the U.S. for training and encourages students to further their studies there. According to the Washington-based Institute of International Education, in the 2016-2017 academic year, 350,755 Chinese students were enrolled in public and private schools in the U.S., accounting for 32.5 percent of its total international students.

However, all these efforts seem so pale while facing trade frictions. Trade disputes have almost turned the two countries from familiar partners to total strangers. Over the past months, the two great nations have enacted tit-for-tat tariffs in their trade disputes. Although everybody knows that there is no winner in a trade war, China and the U.S. may not concede to each other’s demands as long as they can bear the losses caused by reciprocal high tariffs.

Many U.S. officials often complain about the country’s serious trade deficit with China. Frankly speaking, the trade surplus has been gradually dwindling in recent years and China does not want such a surplus with the U.S. It is unfair to blame China for the deficit. Chinese exports to the U.S. are mainly low value-added products, while the U.S. mainly exports high value-added products to China. And for many years, Washington has been refusing to export its advanced technologies to China in the name of protecting national security. Such a trading structure and double standards set by the U.S. make it virtually impossible to balance bilateral trade even with the unilateral efforts made by China.

Meanwhile, the U.S. trade deficit with many other countries has its own root in Washington’s expansionary monetary policy that started with its unilateral cancellation of the direct convertibility between U.S. dollars and gold in 1971 during President Richard Nixon’s administration. More importantly, given the dollar’s role as an international reserve currency, the U.S. Government has had to maintain a trade deficit by printing more currency notes to buy cheaper products from some countries supported by labor-intensive industries.

Besides trade disputes, some Western media also fanfare to intensify the rivaling atmosphere between China and the United States. A stronger and stronger China with a different social system is surely the last thing that Western society wants to see. As China grows, the “China collapse theory” has itself collapsed and became a laughing stock. Under these circumstances, some Western media have shifted to the “China threat theory,” which alleged that China would rival with the United States as the world leader. The latest version of Western comments hyping China’s threat is the creation of the term “sharp power.” At the beginning of 2018, some foreign media alleged that China is exerting sharp power in the world when talking about its efforts to build an overseas image.

Mutual misunderstanding and increasing anxiety have proved that both China and the United States should further study each other in the changing and volatile world. The recent trade friction has further hurt the friendship the two peoples built over the past decades. For the benefit of the two countries and even the whole world, we need to work hard to protect the collaborative spirit China and the U.S. have honored for nearly 40 years.

(The author is the editor-in-chief of the Shenzhen Daily with a Ph.D. from the Journalism and Communication School of Wuhan University.)