Editor's note: Victor Zhikai Gao currently practices private equity consulting and serves as a director of the China National Association of International Studies. He was a former employee of China's Ministry of Foreign Affairs and served as interpreter for senior Chinese officials.
(CNN) -- U.S. President Barack Obama's upcoming visit to China will take place at an extraordinary historic moment. For the first time since the Industrial Revolution, two of the three largest economies in the world are now in northeast Asia. Furthermore, all signs seem to indicate that China may surpass Japan, either this year or no later than 2010, as the second-largest economy in the world.
The economic disparity between China and the United States is at its narrowest since the founding of New China in 1949, and the gap is closing rapidly. For the first time in memory, China, as a developing country with a relatively low per capita income, has become the largest creditor nation to the United States, the only remaining superpower in the world.
The United States is still very much mired in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, is still struggling to get out of the financial crisis and is searching for growth that can provide jobs. By comparison, China is enjoying political stability, high growth at home and robust international relations abroad. While the United States has seemed to worry about not having enough enemies in the world, China is rarely tired of seeking as many friends as possible in the world. As the largest trading nation in the world, China is fast becoming a leading champion of free trade and market economics.
Therefore, barring major natural or man-made disasters, China may surpass the United States as the largest economy in the world in a matter of a couple of decades - during the lifetime of most of the population in the world.
The cold warriors and zero-sum gamers may view a peaceful rising China as a threat to the United States and argue that China should be contained or even sabotaged. This will not only poison the relations between China and the United States, but will also undoubtedly make the whole world a less stable and more dangerous place.
The challenge for China and the United States is to make sure that the dynamic relations between them can be handled properly for mutual benefit, so that they can break the curse of history and both become winners rather, than one gaining only at the other's loss.
Therefore, rather than adopting and escalating abrasive punitive measures against each other -- which would be mutually destructive as well as dangerous to the rest of the world -- the challenge for China and the United States is to better understand each other, to provide incentives for each other, to help each other on major issues relevant to their respective fundamental national interest, and to join hands in leading the world on major global issues such as energy, climate change, pandemics, disaster relief and anti-terrorism.
It is up to President Obama and the United States to demonstrate enough wisdom and vision to realize that China as a country and the Chinese people as a nation have all the reasons to be friends with the United States and the American people.
Without fully engaging China in a constructive and mutually trusting manner, many daunting challenges facing the United States will be more difficult and more costly to solve, if they could be solved at all. Dismissing or marginalizing China will serve no constructive purpose. Distrusting China or even attempting to undermine China as a mighty force for world peace and stability will be self-destructive.
On the contrary, the United States will be better served to give proper incentive and due respect to China, so that China will be able to bring its vast resources and its tradition of strictly honoring its commitments to the full play in solving many burning issues in the world today. In this process, both China and the United States will be winners, and the world will be a better and more peaceful place for all mankind.
In this hope and in this spirit, we warmly welcome President Obama to China!