United States and China Mark a Critical Turning Point in Their Relationship

Enodo’s Nigel Inkster with his thought of the day.

The 18 March top level meeting in Anchorage between the United States and China marked a critical turning point in the relationship between the two countries, which over the last year has undergone a catastrophic deterioration.

Expectations were not high, and these low expectations were amply borne out by some very prolonged and ill-tempered exchanges between the two delegations in front of the world’s media.

China’s State Councillor, Yang Jiechi delivered a lengthy diatribe criticizing US behaviour towards China and the world more generally, and stated clearly that in his view, the United States did not have the right to talk to China from a position of moral superiority.

These exchanges had the effect of laying bare the very real ideological and values differences between the two countries.

To borrow from the terminology of the philosopher Karl Popper, the United States is an open society characterized by individualism and freedom of expression, while China, for all its engagement with the world is a closed society – tribal, hierarchical, and putting the interests of the collective above that of individuals. These two systems will always struggle to coexist, and question going forward is whether the two sides will be able to find some kind of ‘modus vivendi’ or whether they are destined for a future that is characterized by conflict and contestation. Only time will tell.

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