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Avoid adverse psychological hint before resetting Sino-US ties

19:16, January 05, 2011

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By Li Hongmei

A unique self full-filling prophecy in humans is termed as the Pygmalion Effect, which says the person likely to become he is believed or perceived to be. The main idea concerning The Pygmalion Effect is that if you believe that someone is capable of achieving greatness, then that person will indeed achieve greatness. In other words, believing in potential simply creates potential.

In practice, Pygmalion Effect might well be applied to Sino-US relations, and many scholars believe that if both sides constantly cultivate and deepen “enmity” between them, an ill feeling towards each other will be aroused within, and with time, the foul feeling will turn out to be a hostile reality.

Not until the end of 2009, China-US ties seemed to stay on track, even though there are bound to be disagreements between the two powers. However, since January, 2010, the bilateral relations have been tested by so many harsh facts that mutual misunderstanding has ever been shrouding the established “strategic partnership”. Evidently, many of those disputes between the two countries may truly be zero sum in nature.

Both Beijing and Washington were optimistic and upbeat about Sino-US relations when Barack Obama entered office in 2009. The presidents of the two countries met on a number of occasions in 2009 during the G20 summit, the APEC summit and UN Security Council meetings. The US president made a state visit to China during his first year in office, the first president to do so.

But before long, the rosy view started to turn dim and the situation soured with a cascade of events in 2010. The honeymoon came to an end after the Obama cabinet notified congress of its intention to sell 6.4 billion dollars worth of defense products to Taiwan in late January. Then Obama met the Dalai Lama at the White House in early February despite China’s intense objections, as the move is considered as seriously undermining China's national unity and sovereignty.

Beijing responded by suspending Vice-ministerial-level talks on arms control, and military to military contacts. The simmering bilateral tensions grew further in the summer when China openly protested US and its allies' joint military exercises in the Yellow Sea.

The Chinese public emotion ran high when US secretary of State Hillary Clinton claimed the South China Sea as a US national interest. And more recently, the US aircraft carrier and two escorts were deployed off the Korean Peninsula, sending a signal to deter North Korea, but at the same time target and warn China.

The U.S. and its allies have all along mounted pressure upon China to punish North Korea since the sinking ship of South Korea allegedly torpedoed by the North which it denied. And over how to deal with North Korea, U.S. and China have since seen fundamental differences. China insists that incremental concessions on the North Korean side be met faithfully with incremental rewards from all members in the six-party talks, including the United States. But the U.S. is reluctant to “reward” North Korea by sitting back at the negotiating table without the N Korea’s substantive steps to abandon nuclear.

Ironically, the U.S. has never tied of supporting and engaging in the war games with its ally South Korea just at the threshold of the “defiant” North Korea, much the way a powerful bandit is wielding deadly weapons at the other person’s doorsteps to force him to give up defense.

Chinese government and most of the Chinese scholars would like to see the U.S. administration showing more flexibility and sincerity in the way to handle North Korea. They firmly believe that flexibility on the American side would ease North Korea’s stance, disarm it and, finally help achieve settlement expeditiously.

On top of that, Taiwan remains a priority concern for the Chinese military, government, policy experts, and ordinary citizens. Survey research shows that American involvement in Taiwan constitutes the major source of anti-Americanism in China, both for people who have access only to official media and for those who also have regular access to media from Hong Kong or Taiwan or both.

And South China Sea concerns China’s territorial integrity and sovereignty, and therefore acts as one of the hot-buttoned issues, on which the U.S. high-profile officials should avoid using aggressive and hawkish language. In so doing, the United States would have more success in its strategic and economic agenda with Beijing.

In the meantime, from a political perspective, many ordinary Chinese citizens view the U.S. demands to reevaluate the RMB as an attempt to contain China and limit China’s growth.

Developing a positive image with China and the Chinese public, and building a sound Sino-US relationship will, in turn, reward Washington with valuable political and economic capitals. For instance, among President George W. Bush’s foreign policy legacies, the United States’ relationship with China is one rare bright spot.

The last eight years of U.S.-China relations have been defined by the unprecedented bilateral American-Chinese cooperation on shared concerns, such as denuclearization of North Korea, terrorism, and the global financial crisis, as well as the inauguration of the Strategic Economic Dialogue between top officials. The neoconservative suspicion and ideological rhetoric of the early Bush administration has given way to pragmatic engagement, with a growing acknowledgement of the necessity of a stable U.S.-China relationship.

Back to the Pygmalion Effect, to create goodwill between each other needs a constructive psychological hint toward each other, and also needs to overcome the traditional suspicion of each other, and remove the deep-seated misunderstanding of each other.

Indeed, it takes time and poses a test to patience of both sides. But, it is true that if you stand in the vicinity of a hill shouting to the other, “I love you,” the echo must be “I love you.”

Observers say Sino-US relations in 2010 demonstrate the relationship between a superpower and a rising power. Whether the bilateral ties can be reset and restored to the “heyday rapport” depends on commitments as well as compromises between both powers.

The articles in this column represent the author's views only. They do not represent opinions of People's Daily or People's Daily Online.

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About this column

Li Hongmei, editor and columnist of PD Online.

Columnists

Li HongLi Hong

After 19 years working for China Daily and its website, Li Hong moved to english.people.com.cn in March 2009.

Li has been a reporter and column writer, mainly on China's economy and politics.

He was graduated from Beijing Foreign Studies University, and once studied in University of Hawaii and the Poynter Institute in Florida.

John 
Milligan-Whyte 
and
Dai MinJohn
Milligan-Whyte
and
Dai Min

John Milligan-Whyte and Dai Min, the executive producers and co-hosts of the Collaboration of Civilizations television series adapted by the eight books they wrote in the America-China Partnership Book Series published in English and Mandarin in 2009-2010 that created the "New School of America-China Relations." They founded the America-China Partnership Foundation and Forum in 2008 and the Center for American-China Partnership in 2005, which was recognized in 2009 as "the first American think tank to combine and integrate American and Chinese perspectives providing a complete answer for America and China's success in the 21st century."

http://english.people.com.cn/90002/96417/7251528.pdf