How to Relieve Tension and Prevent War

Tuosheng Zhang (張沱生)
(Director of the Academic Committee of the Grandview Institution )

After President Joe Biden took office, the United States put forward the 
3Cs concept on China ─ competition, cooperation and confrontation. China 
opposed this construction, and it was adjusted with an additional “no intention 
to have a conflict.” The U.S. has also increasingly stressed the need to 
build guardrails, maintain and strengthen crisis communication and carry 
out necessary dialogues to avoid military confrontation, while insisting 
on strategic competition with China.

How should this be interpreted and responded to in China?

I think, first, that the Biden administration's desire to appropriately 
ease relations with China and avoid war is genuine. The U.S. experienced 
competition, confrontation, dialogue and finally detente with the Soviet 
Union during the Cold War. At present, in the face of China's resolute fight 
against American suppression and a sharp increase in antagonism, the Biden 
administration has concluded that it's in the overall long-term interest 
of the United States to avoid a military conflict with China, even as it 
pursues strategic competition ─ as it did with the USSR.

Second, the U.S. will build guardrails and establish and strengthen bilateral 
crisis management mechanisms as important tools to avoid war. The U.S. and 
USSR went through the Cold War with danger lurking on all sides. However, 
they managed to establish effective crisis management mechanisms ─ hotlines,
 stable strategic dialogues and an agreement for handling incidents at sea. 
They gradually carried out nuclear arms control and disarmament and avoided 
direct military conflict all the way through the Cold War. The experience 
gave the U.S. a strong sense of crisis management in light of potential
confrontations with other great powers.

Third, Biden hopes to ease relations with China, which might be attributed 
to his strategic thinking, style of governance and political savvy. As a 
typical establishment leader, Biden thinks highly of values, words and wars 
of diplomacy. He values alliances over direct military standoffs. He also 
has a deep understanding of the serious contradictions that have arisen 
in the U.S. in recent years. He believes in repairing and strengthening the 
domestic foundation first, before engaging in strategic competition with 
China. In addition, Biden's team is basically in line with his views on 
security strategy, and his people are able to faithfully implement his security 
concepts and policies.

Fourth, most countries do not want to choose between China and the U.S., 
and they hope to see the great power relationship stabilized and eased. 
Although American allies have become more inclined toward the U.S., they 
still hope to maintain independence and autonomy in protecting their own 
interests. However, if a conflict or war were to break out between China 
and the U.S., inevitably they will be forced to choose sides in a world of 
bipolar confrontation. To maintain its leading position in the world, the 
U.S. will have to take into account the wishes of the vast majority of other 

Fifth, sharp internal conflicts exist with respect to the U.S. policy of 
easing relations with China. The U.S. wants continued suppression of China 
and continually provokes crises. At the same time, it wants to build guardrails 
to avoid dangerous conflicts or war. These conflicting objectives have made 
it extremely difficult for the two sides to relax. It is foreseeable that 
the easing of China-U.S. relations, if any, will be full of twists and turns 
and that material improvement will be unlikely anytime soon.

China-U.S. friction and competition started to intensify in Obama's second 
term, which began in January 2013. Will China and the U.S. be able to shorten 
the process that the Cold War superpowers followed to develop a relatively 
full-fledged crisis management mechanism while easing relations at the same 
time? In my opinion, this is possible and worth the effort. Things are 

* First, the China-U.S. relationship is not hostile, unlike the U.S.-Soviet 
duel, which featured competition for hegemony. Their economies are intertwined,
 unlike the mutual isolation of the American and Soviet economic systems.

* Second, China and the U.S. had already begun to create bilateral crisis 
management mechanisms toward the end of the last century and had made fairly 
good progress.

*Third, China and the U.S. can learn some profound lessons from the Cold 
War experience.

* Fourth, in the face of unprecedented global challenges, such as climate 
change, China and the U.S. are in the same boat and must help each other. 
The superpowers of the Cold War era never had such vast overlapping interests.

Of course, it is difficult for China and the U.S. to repair their seriously 
frayed relations in a short period of time. It is therefore imperative to 
first set up the necessary safety net, or guardrails, for them to play a 
significant role in avoiding a crisis or preventing it from getting out 
of control. Otherwise, if a military confrontation is triggered between China 
and the U.S., even short of all-out war ─ be it in the Taiwan Strait, the 
South China Sea, on the Korean Peninsula, in cyberspace or outer space -- 
the disastrous effects of hostility, total decoupling and a new cold war 
between China and the U.S. will follow. After that, it will be even more 
difficult for the two countries to stabilize relations, and they will pay 
a double price. If war were to break out, the consequences are 
beyond imagination.

In this connection, China emphasizes the need for itself and the U.S. to 
abide by the basic norms of international relations and the three Joint 
Communiques, finding it critical to manage and control their contradictions 
and differences and prevent confrontation or conflict. The U.S., on the 
other hand, stresses the need to maintain crisis communication mechanisms 
and dialogue, especially military-to-military, and to abide by the air and 
sea code of conduct jointly developed to prevent accidents. I think both 
are indispensable and must be closely combined. Only on this basis will 
it be possible for China and the U.S. to avoid a conflict or war and start 
the process of relaxation.

There are three possible scenarios for China-U.S. relations in the future:

First, if a safety net or guardrails are not put in place as soon as possible,
 we may see the outbreak of a military conflict between China and the U.S. 
This is the worst-case scenario that both sides should try their best to 

Second, if the two countries can maintain the necessary dialogue and cooperation
 , and if they can strengthen the institutional frame and practice of crisis 
management, it will be possible for them to avoid war, start the relaxation 
process and gradually form a relatively stable competition-cooperation
relationship within a decade or so. This prospect is better.

Third, coordination and cooperation will become the mainstream mode of bilateral 
relations again after a longer period of joint efforts. Then the two sides 
will engage in healthy competition, with the Chinese long-term goal of 
“mutual respect, peaceful coexistence and win-win cooperation” achieved. 
This is the best prospect for bilateral relations. China and the U.S. should 
make unremitting efforts to attain it.

(The source of the article comes from 2023-04-12)
****** ****** 中美應如何緩和緊張防止衝突與戰爭
張沱生 國觀智庫學術委員會主任
拜登上台後,美方先是提出了所謂競爭、合作、對抗的三分法,遭到中方反對後對 第三條有所調整,提出“無意同中國發生衝突”,並日益強調在堅持對華戰略競爭 的同時建立護欄,保持與加強危機溝通,開展必要對話,避免雙方發生衝突與戰爭。 對此,中方應怎樣認識和做出怎樣的回應呢? 我認為,第一,拜登政府希望適當緩和對華關係、避免軍事衝突與戰爭的意願是真 實的。美國有在冷戰中與蘇聯既競爭對抗又對話緩和的經歷。當前,面對中方對美 方打壓的堅決鬥爭及中美關係對抗因素的急劇上升,拜登政府認為在堅持進行對華 戰略競爭的同時避免與中國發生衝突戰爭符合美總體與長遠利益。 第二,美方將建立護欄,建立與加強雙邊危機管理機制,作為避免中美衝突與戰爭 的重要工具。在美蘇冷戰初期,兩國關係曾險象環生,三次柏林危機及頻繁的海上 摩擦與突發事件使雙方發生直接軍事衝突的可能性極大,1962年的古巴導彈危機更 使美蘇走到了核戰爭的邊緣。此後,美蘇開始建立包括熱線在內的各種危機管理機 制,達成《美蘇防止海上事故協定》(INCSEA),舉行戰略穩定對話,逐步開展核 軍控裁軍。直至冷戰結束,美蘇雙方始終未發生任何直接軍事衝突。美國在冷戰中 的經歷使其在大國對抗中有很強的危機管理意識。 第三,拜登希望適當緩和美中關係與其戰略思維、執政風格及從政經驗有重要關係。 拜登是典型的建制派領導人,他更看重價值觀、言辭、外交之戰,更重視同盟關係 而非直接軍事對抗。拜登還對近年來美國國內出現的多種嚴重矛盾深有體會,認為 開展對華戰略競爭首先要從修補、加強國內基礎做起。此外,拜登的執政團隊與拜 登的安全戰略理念基本一致,能較為忠誠地執行其安全理念與政策。 第四,到目前為止,世界上絕大多數國家都不希望在中美之間選邊站,希望中美關 係能有所穩定緩和。雖然美國的主要盟國已越來越向美傾斜,但它們從自身利益出 發也仍希保持一定的獨立性、自主性。然而,一旦中美爆發衝突與戰爭,選邊站和 兩級對立世界的出現將無法避免。美國要維護其在世界上的主導地位,不能不考慮 世界上絕大多數國家的願望。 第五,美對華緩和政策存在尖銳的內在矛盾。美國既要堅持打壓中國、不斷挑起危 機,又要建立護欄、避免衝突戰爭,這使美中緩和緊張關係困難重重,以致中方一 直批評美方是說一套做一套。可以預見,未來中美關係即使有所緩和也將一波三折, 難以在較短時期內出現較大的緩和與改善。 回顧歷史,美蘇冷戰自1947年爆發,1962年後兩國開始加強危機管理,並於60年代 末啟動緩和進程。然而,美蘇緩和與緊張總是交替出現,直到冷戰末期,緩和才取 得明顯進展(此後,蘇聯崩潰,但這並非由蘇美緩和所致,而主要由其長期積累的 眾多深刻內部矛盾所造成)。 中美摩擦競爭加劇從奧巴馬第二任期開始至今已進入第12個年頭。中美能否早一些 建立起較為完善的危機管理機制並同時開啟關係緩和的進程?我認為,這是可能的, 值得雙方為之努力。 首先,中美關係並非美蘇爭霸的敵對關係,而且兩國經濟至今仍你中有我、我中有 你,遠不是當年美蘇經濟體系基本隔絕的狀況。 其次,中美早在上世紀末就開始建立雙邊危機管理機制,並曾取得較大的進展。 第三,中美可以認真吸取美蘇冷戰中的一些深刻經驗教訓。 第四,面對氣候變化等前所未有的全球性挑戰,中美兩國乘在一條船上,必須同舟 共濟。當年的美蘇兩國絕無這麼大的共同利益。 當然,已經嚴重惡化的中美關係要在短期內實現緩和是難以做到的。當務之急是首 先須把中美關係的“防護和安全網”(中方表述)或“防護欄”(美方表述)建立 起來,使之對兩國規避危機和防止危機失控引發軍事衝突與戰爭發揮重大作用。否 則,無論是在台海、南海還是朝鮮半島,無論是在網絡空間還是太空,一旦中美髮 生軍事衝突,即使未走向戰爭,中美敵對、全面脫鉤及陷入冷戰的惡果也將接踵而 至。此後,兩國要想緩和穩定關係將難上加難,並將付出成倍的代價。而如果爆發 戰爭後果則更不堪設想。 為此,中方特彆強調中美雙方須遵守國際關係的基本準則和中美三個聯合公報,認 為這是雙方管控矛盾分歧、防止對抗衝突的關鍵。美國則強調須保持危機溝通機制 與對話,特別是兩軍對話,強調遵守雙方制訂的海空行為準則,防止發生意外突發 事件。我認為這兩者缺一不可,必須緊密結合起來。在此基礎上,中美才可能避免 衝突戰爭並啟動雙方關係緩和的歷史進程。 未來的中美關係將有三種可能的發展前景: 一是如果不能儘快把兩國關係的安全與防護網或護欄建立起來,中美將有爆發軍事 衝突甚至戰爭的可能。這是雙方應全力避免的最壞前景。 二是如果兩國能開展並保持必要的對話與合作,加強危機管理機制建設與危機管理, 雙方將可能避免衝突戰爭,並早日開啟緩和進程,通過10年或更長一點的時間,逐 步形成一種相對穩定的競爭-合作關係。這是一種較好的發展前景。 三是經過更長時期的共同努力,協調合作重新成為兩國關係的主流,雙方開展良性 競爭,中美形成合作-競爭關係,實現中方倡導的“相互尊重,和平共處,合作共贏” 的長遠目標。這是兩國關係的最佳發展前景,中美雙方應為之做出長期不懈的努力。

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