Commentary: America's real deficit with China is in understanding, not trade

Source: Xinhua| 2019-12-09 15:44:17|Editor: huaxia
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BEIJING, Dec. 9 (Xinhua) -- While many in Washington are focusing on their country's trade deficits with China, a U.S. scholar argues that understanding is where America's real deficit with China lies.

In his book "Powerful, Different, Equal: Overcoming the Misconceptions and Differences Between China and the U.S.," Peter Walker, senior partner emeritus at management consulting firm McKinsey & Company, draws on China's past to explain how the nation's painful history of being invaded by Western powers has shaped the Chinese people's emphasis on national sovereignty and dignity.

Being an avid reader of Chinese cultural and literary classics, he elaborates on the prevailing mindsets among the Chinese that highlight harmony, win-win cooperation, collectivism and pragmatism, and their cultural roots in Confucian values, noting that the Chinese deem military aggression costly and futile.

By concluding that the U.S. and Chinese social and economic models are grounded in their own unique histories and cultures, and that the so-called "China threat" is based on significant misunderstandings, Walker is correctly pinpointing that the current twists in bilateral ties are based on these issues.

As Walker puts it, the U.S.' understanding deficit mainly stems from Washington elites' lack of willingness to understand China.

Some Washington politicians turn a blind eye to the fact that China's mainstream mindsets have been formed over the past several thousand years. It seems that what they want is to force China to change course and shift to the Western model. And when this wishful thinking fails to materialize, they feel disappointed and try to distort China's peaceful development as a threat.

Take the China-proposed Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) for example. The BRI is designed to promote the common prosperity of the countries participating in the initiative, and is in line with China's deeply-rooted belief in advocating win-win cooperation and common development. Yet, some U.S. politicians deliberately smear the BRI as a "trap", despite the fact that the initiative is bringing real benefits to China's partners.

As British scholar Martin Jacques once noted, the biggest desire for the West has been to understand China through the Western prism. "That is why the Western perception and prognosis of China is so frequently wrong," he said.

To eliminate this understanding deficit, maintaining close contact and mutual respect is paramount.

The normalization of China-U.S. relations back in the 1970s showed that as long as the United States can put aside its bias toward China, it can take a rational and objective stance toward the differences between the two countries.

In his book, Walker tries to make the case that constructive engagement between the United States and China will only be possible when the U.S.' fundamental misunderstandings are overcome. At a time when there is a greater need for China-U.S. collaboration than ever before, Washington should bear that appeal in mind.