Opinion | Falling in love with China, once again
At the just-concluded Biden-Xi meeting in San Francisco, the most romantic city in America, one sensed the beginnings of a second love affair with China. Post-Trump, China has been plunged into a Niagara of American paranoia. US-China relations is overdue for a reset. The rapturous applause that greeted President Xi's speech as well as a responsive Biden promises a revitalized relationship, after its derailment by the colluding unfriendly Western press and opportunistic politicians.
If they could remove their blindfolds for a moment, they should see that the China story itself is a heartwarming romance about the rebirth of China----producing millions upon millions of rags-to-riches stories. China itself is a rags-to-riches story, from its abject poverty four decades ago to its unchallenged status as the world's greatest manufacturing nation today. The Chinese are savoring the fruits of their hard-won struggle. They can now afford to dream, with ring-side seats at their country's transformation from utter backwardness into a leading nation of innovation. Everywhere they go, they are greeted by the triumphs of technology. It is a nation in love with itself, and wants no quarrels with the world—a nation humanity should hug. It is the Asian version of the American dream which promises that hard work will be rewarded. People to people, they dream the same dream, though outwardly separated by different cultures and political ecosystems.
In truth, China and the US share more than what separates them.
It has taken two deadly and unwelcome wars, in Ukraine and Israel-Palestine, to awaken a new awareness in America and the West, that perhaps China is huggable and not evil after all. Its record in foreign wars is squeaky-clean. China is now touted as a possible peace-maker. You don't have to fall in love with China to get along with it. At least one should embrace the simple truth that, internationally, China is no trouble-maker and never has been. The same cannot be said about other major powers. If you check the ledger, China is a net contributor to world stability and prosperity, whether in its zero foreign conflicts or its well-intentioned Belt and Road initiative--a project for peace and shared prosperity.
It is bad for the world to have its two biggest powers at loggerheads. There can be no winners in destructive mutual enmity. Mind you, China has never been the one to pick quarrels. Mostly, they stem from an insecure America imprisoned in a "cold-war" mentality that has outlived its usefulness. It's a political dead-end, and a bilateral economic disaster.
Finally, light is appearing at the end of a long, dark tunnel. The defrosting began with the recent mood-changing visit to China by the warmly gregarious Gavin Newsome, Governor of California. When he stepped on Chinese soil, he did what no other Western political leaders have done-- he left his ideological blindfolds behind. Everywhere he went, he was greeted like a long-lost brother who had come home. He charmed his way into Chinese hearts and brought back a huge reservoir of good will. Fittingly, the all-important meeting between the two top leaders took place in his favorite city, where he played the perfect host. He deserves the gratitude of the world for his ice-breaking magic touch.
Across the pond in Britain, things are looking up too, as an old China hand David Cameron becomes its new foreign minister. Under his premiership, China's relationship with Britain enjoyed a brief spring. Let's hope that the birds of spring will be chirping again, Cameron-style.
But heading into the election year, we must guard against political headwinds, as hungry politicians come to feed at the anti-China trough. These political vultures will be circling the skies to satisfy their nasty appetites. Extremism gets them attention and votes from the misguided, and irrationality is all too easy to weaponize. For the feeble US-China new romance to take root, an unbiased media plays a crucial role. Too often it has played fast and loose with journalistic norms, in the belief that negative reportage sells paper and makes journalistic careers. With two deadly wars raging, too much is at stake for the media to play judge and jury rather than objective analysts in US-China behavior. They may not realize that the rekindling of an expired romance between two major powers is itself a red-hot story that sells papers, attracts eyeballs and promotes careers, as much as destructive wars do. We need battalions of latter-day Edgar Snows to hasten a return to a healthy normality in the world's most important bilateral relationship.
Give China a second look. Give peace a second chance. Give your careers a second wind.