Skip to main content

U.S. and China: Worlds apart but much in common

By Stan Grant, CNN
updated 7:31 PM EST, Wed November 7, 2012
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • In space of one week, world's two great powers decide their immediate futures
  • Beijing has cautioned U.S. politicians to treat China with respect
  • U.S. has pivoted to Asia away from wars in Iraq and Afghanistan
  • Away from heat of politics and trade, ordinary people are building bridges

Tune in to "The Future of China" at 0900 HKT, 2000 ET, 0100 GMT on CNN.

Beijing (CNN) -- So, America has decided. President Barack Obama has been returned for another term. Now it is China's turn. In the space of one week the world's two great powers decide their immediate futures.

More: China's secretive process

It's not all they have in common. America and China are joined at the wallet. China makes mass cost-effective products, United States consumers buy them. The U.S. is China's single biggest trade partner, China is the biggest holder of American debt.

Yet so much attention is given to what divides the two powers. In the U.S presidential election both candidates tried to "out-tough" each other on China. There were the now mandatory claims of China stealing American jobs, not playing fair, manipulating its currency to gain an export advantage.

Beijing has cautioned U.S. politicians to treat China with respect. It talks about win-win, the need for cooperation.

More: 3 challenges for China's next leaders

Inside China's Communist Party Congress
Presidential candidates on China
Mao's shadow over China
What in the world: Change in China

President Obama made it clear during the campaign that China can be either a partner or an adversary. He's backing his words with firepower.

The U.S. has pivoted to Asia away from wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. It is consolidating key alliances in Southeast Asia, carrying out military exercises with Japan and South Korea. American troops are now in place on Australian soil.

Some analysts interpret this as an attempt to contain China's rise. China is rattling other nations in Asia with its military build-up and tense territorial disputes. Violent protests have erupted across China as people denounce the likes of Japan and the Philippines.

More: Opinion: West should prepare for confusing new Chinese leader

But away from the heat of politics and trade, ordinary people are building bridges. Chinese students are flocking to American colleges, U.S. businesses are capitalizing on China's inexpensive labor, and young Americans can be found throughout Chinese cities.

Jonathon Levine left his home in New York when he found himself unemployed. Armed with a masters degree he found a job teaching U.S. Studies at Beijing's Tsinghua University. He says "China bashing" isn't the answer, the world, he says, needs to get over its fear.

"It's not like going to the moon like it might have been 100 years ago because communication links us much closer together," Levine said.

China is not the moon, but it is world's away from the U.S. in so many ways. Where America prides itself on its democracy, the Chinese Communist Party keeps a tight grip on power. The U.S is the home of laissez-faire capitalism, China remains a command economy. Human rights continues to be a thorny issue, and where the U.S pursues intervention in foreign affairs, China prefers a hands-off approach.

More: China's Communist Party Congress explained

U.S Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton, says China's relationship with the U.S. is the defining one of this century. President Obama has four more years; Xi Jinping is expected to be anointed China's leader for the next decade -- two men a world apart with a world depending on them.

ADVERTISEMENT
Part of complete coverage on
updated 3:57 AM EST, Thu December 18, 2014
Chinese students show a handmade red ribbon one day ahead of the the World AIDS Day, at a school in Hanshan, east China's Anhui province on November 30, 2009.
Over 200 Chinese villagers in Sichuan province have signed a petition to banish a HIV-positive eight-year-old boy, state media reported.
updated 6:44 AM EST, Mon December 15, 2014
A Chinese couple allegedly threw hot water on a flight attendant and threatened to blow up the plane, forcing the Nanjing-bound plane to turn back to Bangkok.
updated 12:03 AM EST, Mon December 15, 2014
China's 1.3 billion citizens may soon find it much harder to belt out their national anthem at will.
updated 7:21 PM EST, Tue December 9, 2014
Like Beijing today, Los Angeles in the last century went through its own smog crisis. The city's mayor says LA's experience delivers valuable lessons.
updated 12:42 AM EST, Sat December 6, 2014
At the height of his power, Zhou Yongkang controlled China's police, spy agencies and courts. Now, he's under arrest.
updated 3:26 AM EST, Fri December 5, 2014
China says it will end organ transplants from executed prisoners but tradition means that donors are unlikely to make up the shortfall.
updated 1:48 AM EST, Fri December 5, 2014
China's skylines could look a lot more uniform in the years to come, if a statement by a top Beijing official is to believed.
updated 3:55 AM EST, Wed December 3, 2014
Despite an anti-corruption drive, China's position on an international corruption index has deteriorated in the past 12 months.
updated 7:01 AM EST, Wed November 26, 2014
A daring cross-border raid by one of Russian President Vladimir Putin's associates has -- so far -- yet to sour Sino-Russian relations.
updated 7:51 PM EST, Sun November 23, 2014
A 24-hour Taipei bookstore is a hangout for hipsters as well as bookworms.
updated 8:53 PM EST, Mon November 24, 2014
China is building an island in the South China Sea that could accommodate an airstrip, according to IHS Jane's Defence Weekly.
updated 5:57 AM EST, Wed November 19, 2014
North Korean refugees face a daunting journey to reach asylum in South Korea, with gangs of smugglers the only option.
updated 6:19 PM EST, Fri November 21, 2014
China and "probably one or two other" countries have the capacity to shut down the nation's power grid and other critical infrastructure.
ADVERTISEMENT