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Ahead of an arbitral court's ruling, a group of Chinese and US think tank members are now suggesting the two sides need to better manage their differences on this matter.|
Some argue the upcoming deadline will be a test on whether there is enough wisdom from both sides to build a new type of relations between major countries.
This group of former Chinese and American government officials and scholars on international law and international relations just concluded their dialogue in Washington DC.
The roundtable discussion was focused on the ruling's legality, possible reactions, and its implications on China-U.S. ties.
Dai Bingguo, former Chinese state councilor in charge of foreign affairs, reiterated in a keynote speech that the Chinese government will not accept the ruling since the tribunal under the Permanent Court of Arbitration has no jurisdiction over the case.
He also urged cooler heads to prevail over the South China Sea issue, saying this matter should not be allowed to define China-US ties.
Former US ambassador to China Stapleton Roy echoed this view, saying cooling down the temperature is what both sides want.
"Our view is that we want the temperatures to be lowered. We want freedom of navigation to be affirmed. Both China and the US have important interest in that. So we think the international tribunal's ruling would be important but it won't resolve all of the issues we are dealing with."
Wu Shicun, President of the National Institute for South China Sea Studies, says a consensus reached at the dialogue in Washington is that the relations between China and the US should not be hijacked by the South China Sea issue, since the two countries share more interests than differences.
"Neither China nor the US wants to jeopardize their broader shared interests just for the sake of the South China Sea. Cooperation is still the mainstream between the two countries. The two have no choice but to communicate more with each other and take the other side's core interests and key concerns into consideration. China and the US should particularly better manage their differences, to avoid further heating up the situation ahead of the ruling and to avoid a possible conflict."
On a bigger picture, Liu Zhiqin, senior fellow with Chongyang Institute for Financial Studies at Renmin University, says he does not believe the current situation in the South China Sea reflects any kind of shift of regional or world power, saying that is an complete exaggeration.
Instead, Liu, along with several other attendees at the dialogue, says from the perspective of international relations, how the relevant parties deal with the ruling is a test on whether China and the US are capable of building a new type of major country relationship as they have promised.
"I think we have good chance and opportunity for both countries to build a new relationship, as some say this case in the South China Sea is a test about how to set up a new form of such relationship. I think America can really play a good, positive role as a bridge. You should think which bridge you need - not some aircraft carriers - you should build a bridge to better coordinate and communicate. I think we have a good chance still."
William Jones, bureau chief of Executive Intelligence Review, says what the world needs now is a new type of mentality in international relations, rather than the old-fashioned geopolitical game.
"We cannot no longer see things in a zero-sum game type of world, because unless we can move to a new type of relationship, a new paradigm in relations between countries, we will be back in the era of geopolitics - and geopolitics will ultimately lead to war."
The conference was co-hosted by Chongyang Institute for Financial Studies at Renmin University and the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace.
The Hague arbitration tribunal over the South China Sea is set to pass its ruling next Tuesday.