Balance of Interests and Strategic Accommodation

Issued: Mon, 30 Sep 2019 17:44:00 BST

Han Zhaoying

Balance of Interests and Strategic Accommodation: The Logic of China-U.S. Relations Since Normalization

Speaker: Professor Han Zhaoying, Zhou Enlai School of Government, Nankai University

Time: 2pm Friday 4 October 2019

Venue: Room 256, Main Building, University of Glasgow

Over the forty years since China and the United States normalized relations, the international structure has evolved from the bipolar world of the Cold War to an unipolar world with the dominance of the United States. With the rise of China, the power gap between China and the United States has been narrowing gradually and the world has started a shift to a “post unipolar” era. Relations between China and the United States have been shifting between cooperation and confrontation, experiencing periods of strategic coordination, non-enemy and non-friend, stakeholders, and strategic competition. What have led to such a relationship between two great powers? A pair of mutually exclusive interests exist between China and the United States: in addition to a group of negative interests related mainly to strategic security, there is also a group of positive interests surrounding economic interdependence. The balance between these negative and positive interests dictates change in the China-US relationship that has to be continually accommodated strategically. With the issue of strategic security becoming increasingly problematic, strategic competition between China and the United States is going to become a normal state; the intensity of their competition might become strong in certain domains. Yet the group of positive interests—including economic and trade ties, fighting against terrorism, nonproliferation, and a series global governance issues—will still play a “pulling” role in bilateral relations for a period of time. Therefore, strategic competition between China and the United States will not fall into full conflict of strategic confrontation soon. “Competitive partnership” might become the expression to define the relationship between China and the United States. Such a definition of the present China-US relationship implies a lot for international relations including China-EU and China-UK relations.