By Zhiqun Zhu
CNN, October 27, 2012

Edited by Andy Ross

In their debates, both Barack Obama and Mitt Romney called China a partner. This leaves the door open for building a good working relationship with China's new leaders. The debaters traded jabs on how they would deal with the trade and currency issue but skipped other major controversial topics such as human rights and censorship.

China is expected to surpass the United States as the largest economy within a decade. Both countries are struggling to deal with the new power structure in the international system. Both Obama and Romney claimed they would push China to "play by the rules." Such an approach will not work. The United States must play by the rules first.

The United States still maintains some sanctions against China, including the ban on exports of high-tech equipment and products to China. This makes it hard for the United States to narrow its trade deficit with China. The two countries are so interdependent that they no longer have the luxury to choose whether to be friends or foes.

The two countries are separated by huge gaps in political systems and cultural values. The two governments still deeply distrust each other. America's deployment of more forces in the Asia-Pacific region and beefing up its alliances with China's neighbors smack of a policy of encircling China. Such containment will not work.

It has become politically incorrect to say anything good about China during America's elections. Such practices may help a candidate to win an election, but they are harmful to relations in the long term. The United States is at the risk of creating a resentful China during the Asian power's transition to a more diverse and open society.

Americans should never lose sight of the big picture. As a global leader, the United States has the moral responsibility to help promote democracy, human rights, and rule of law in the world. With China in transition, the United States has a great opportunity to help shape the future of a neighbor for generations to come.


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