China-U.S. Relations Should Focus On Cooperation, Not Competition

Much has been said in the conversation on China-U.S. relations so far, but the one topic that hasn’t been brought up often enough, according to Henry Paulson Jr., is the areas where the countries are working together.

“Why are we not working on bilateral investments to create jobs, open up key markets, or solve key environmental problems?” Paulson asked a panel on globalization at the Fortune Global Forum held in Guangzhou, China on Wednesday. Paulson is the founder and chairman of the Paulson Institute and also served as the U.S. Secretary of the Treasury from 2006 to 2009.

“There are areas where countries compete and areas where we cooperate, but we have to get the balance right,” said Victor Fung, chairman of Hong Kong-based retail and logistics conglomerate Fung Group. “If we want to compete in every area, we’ll turn a non-zero sum game into a zero sum game and that is not good for everyone.”

Instead of relying on government-to-government relations, Fung suggested more business-to-business cooperation “would help to cement the idea that we can do things together that are of mutual benefit.”

For Royal Philips CEO Frans van Houten, it’s all about shifting one’s perspective. Instead of viewing intellectual property as a matter of competition, Philips has recently opened their artificial intelligence-powered medical diagnostics platform as an API and invited Chinese developers to build applications on top of it “so it becomes an ecosystem where we need each other,” he said. “That’s the fastest way to tap into the capacity of a market without fighting each other.”

Besides, van Houten added, as China moves from a manufacturing-driven society to one driven by growing middle-class consumption, and soon, by innovation, the world will see more technological transfers from China to the U.S., rather than the other way around. “China has doubled up on its technology, talent, and creativity in the digital domain and it will go much faster than the U.S. and Europe.”

The Chinese consumer, additionally, is fast becoming the most discriminating consumer in the world, Fung pointed out. About 110 million Chinese travel abroad every year and “they’re tech-enabled, spending hours on the phone everyday, and a well-to-do market at a much younger age.”

As new business models rapidly emerge in China, especially in the online-to-offline tech space, “we’ll soon need to look at what’s happening in China first and then to its application to other parts of the world,” Fung added.