Interview: Cooperation Only Choice for U.S., China Due to High Stakes, Says Economist

File - U.S. President Joe Biden, right, stands with Chinese President Xi Jinping before a meeting on the sidelines of the G20 summit on Nov. 14, 2022, in Bali, Indonesia. When Washington and Beijing do economic battle – as they have for five years now – the rest of the world suffers, too. And when they hold a top-level summit – as Biden and Xi will this week – the rest of the world pays attention. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon, File)
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“There is no other path even potentially successful” than the path of cooperation for China and the United States as the stakes are “so high,” a renowned U.S. economist has said recently.

Due to U.S. administrations’ aggressive economic measures toward China, bilateral relationship has been on a deteriorating path for the past few years, Jeffrey Sachs, an economics professor and director of the Center for Sustainable Development at Columbia University, told Xinhua in a video interview.

Sachs, a highly respected and well-known economist, said the United States and China should have win-win economic relations.

“When there are trade relations between major economies, it is true that some places within the economy may lose to the imports from the other country where other places win by increasing exports to the other country. But the lesson of trade is that the gains or the wins are much larger than the losses,” Sachs said.

Sachs argued that the United States should solve the problem with domestic policy instead of trade policy. “But the U.S. political system was quite stingy. The winners didn’t want to help the losers, and therefore, there was resentment about trade where it wasn’t really trade that was the problem,” he said.

On “technology decoupling,” Sachs said that although the United States has tried to limit China’s growth by restricting China’s access to the most cutting-edge microchips and other digital technologies, it’s not working according to plan, because China has accelerated its own development of these advanced chips.

“There’s a way to go, perhaps, in some areas … but China’s also clearly demonstrated some very important advances,” he said.

“So I think the U.S. approach was wrong in principle and not very effective in practice. And I hope that it is reconsidered,” said the economist. “There are better ways for the U.S. and China to find a normal relationship than the U.S. unilaterally imposing this kind of technology restriction.”

Sachs, who is also a senior United Nations advisor, argued that the United States should not safeguard its national security through “attempts at economic containment,” calling for proper discussions to find better ways.

“We can achieve security through diplomacy. We can achieve security through better understanding. We can achieve security through limiting the arms race,” Sachs said.

“There are much, much better ways to address our security perceptions than the current approach, where there’s so much fear, so much misunderstanding, and so many unilateral actions, especially by the United States, that this isn’t providing security at all. It’s just making the world more dangerous,” he said.

When asked about the “China Threat” rhetoric, the renowned economist said China’s economic success is a plus for both the United States and the world. “A prosperous China means more technologies, more trade, more opportunities,” he said.

Sachs noted that China can make a major contribution to solving global issues such as climate change, because “China’s a low-cost producer of many of the key green technologies that are absolutely needed for a safe climate.”

China can also make a major contribution to Africa’s economic development, among others, he said.

Sachs said that the U.S. leadership has been more fearful and maybe resentful that the dominant position of the United States is no longer so dominant. “We’re in a multipolar world, and I don’t think the U.S. ideology has come to grips with that properly,” he said.

U.S. policymakers, especially in the White House, however, have realized things “have gotten out of hand and become dangerous,” and the United States went too far with its aggressiveness, badmouthing of China, negative attitudes towards initiatives like the Belt and Road Initiative and so on, Sachs noted.

He said that in recent weeks there has been some “glimmer of hope” that the United States will “pull back from what has been a wrongheaded trajectory” and actually aim to “establish some normal diplomacy with China” in which economic issues can be negotiated.

Commenting on the high-level exchanges between the two sides, Sachs said he hopes it’s a real “attempt by the Biden administration finally to try to put the relations with China on a more even-keeled, more calm basis.”

Looking ahead, Sachs said if the United States thinks through properly what is at stake, the expected summit between the two heads of state can be very beneficial.

“A clearing of the air, a show of mutual respect, a calming of nerves, and I think everybody would breathe a sigh of relief with that,” he said.

In a congratulatory message to the annual Gala Dinner of the National Committee on U.S.-China Relations and a meeting with Gavin Newsom, governor of the U.S. state of California, Chinese President Xi Jinping reiterated the three principles upheld by China in handling its relations with the United States.

Commenting on the three principles of mutual respect, peaceful coexistence and win-win cooperation, Sachs said the idea of mutual respect, cooperation, dialogue, and joint problem-solving is “really wise, and of paramount importance.”

China and the United States can work together to end the Israeli-Palestinian conflict by implementing a two-state solution, and could end the Ukraine crisis by implementing peace based on Ukraine’s neutrality supported by the UN Security Council, Sachs said.

“Peace, the end of poverty worldwide, and environmental sustainability all will benefit enormously from U.S.-China cooperation,” he said.

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