The Nation


The US and China need each other more than ever

With their economies increasingly intertwined, the two superpowers understand that they can ill afford to become embroiled in quarrels

Those who have entertained the idea that one day the United States and China might clash with each other and bring down the world with them must be very disappointed with the outcome of Vice President Joe Biden's recent visit to China. The two superpowers, despite their stark differences in the political and cultural spheres, know full well when they have to tango. They also know that when they tango, they have to do so with their feet and hands working in tandem. These days they do not need a war to bring each other down; a few derisory words can be sufficient to bring the top two economic powers to loggerheads. But neither really wants to do that.The reality is that the two countries have to live with one another, but sometimes they do mudsling each other's performance on the global stage, especially on the issues of human rights and democratic development. China will respond with tight-lipped comments, basically saying 'mind your own business.' But today's narrative is much clearer: mind your own economy. The troubled US economy, the ongoing crisis in Europe and China's ever increasing global economic power means there is little convergence of attitudes and policies. It is not wrong to say that the US and China could stand up together or fall down together. There is no zero-sum game in the friendship because their destiny is bound up with the Chinese store of US treasury bonds to the tune of more than US$1.3 trillion. The top Communist Party leaders in China are very pragmatic when it comes to matters related to money and economies. Even though the Chinese leaders can be dogmatic about many things, they are crystal clear that they will not destroy their golden goose - the US. So the doomsayers will have to wait forever for their wishes to come true. Given the fragile economy in the US nowadays, it is even more important that Beijing comes to the aid of Washington to ensure that cooperation is strong and to build up more confidence in weak stock markets around the world. China cannot survive with the Dow Jones index on a downward trend all the time. A bad global economy will hurt China more than ever before because of globalisation and its growing economic connectivity with the rest of the world. Just read the statements and comments from Beijing's state newspapers and organisations about Biden's visit; they were full of confidence with words of support for the US economy. To say otherwise would have been foolish.The US and China will continue to build up mutual trust in their own ways. More understanding, however, is needed from the US side about the situation in China. Viewing the Middle Kingdom from inside, the country is facing all sorts of social, economic and governance issues. Unemployment in inner China, the widening income gap and a myriad of social problems including housing are serious issues that the government needs to solve. It will not be easy. Beijing does not want to quarrel with Washington because to do so would only hurt each economy. They must speak the same economic language while dancing to different political tunes.

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