25th November 2023 – (Beijing) In recent weeks, the tide seems to be turning in engagement between China and the West. A flurry of high-level meetings and policy shifts reveal Western nations adopting a more pragmatic approach, not the ideological confrontation of recent years. What explains this prudent recalibration? Simply put, it recognizes cooperation with China best serves global peace and prosperity.

This rethink acknowledges “decoupling” is both unworkable and counterproductive. The economies of China and the West are far too intertwined to disentangle without harming all. And with pressing global challenges mounting, bridging divisions to partner with China has become imperative.

The West’s course correction was highlighted by the recent Xi-Biden summit, the first face-to-face meeting between the leaders since the U.S.-China relationship deteriorated. Coming on the heels of other ministerial talks, the lengthy summit signalled a mutual desire to manage differences and pursue common interests.

This aim was echoed in public comments. Biden stated the countries “share a responsibility to show that China and the U.S. can manage our differences, prevent competition from becoming anything ever near conflict, and to find ways to work together on urgent global issues that require our mutual cooperation.” Previous hostility damaged both sides without yielding political or economic advantage. Biden’s administration recognizes that cooperating with China can produce concrete gains unachievable through confrontation. With pressing global problems requiring joint effort, leaders have rightly chosen partnership over antagonism. Beyond the bilateral relationship, China’s extensive engagement across the Asia-Pacific and with the EU reveals Western attitudes becoming more constructive. Japan, the Philippines, and other nations held productive high-level talks with China around the time of the Xi-Biden summit.

Some observers call this a coincidence, but coordinated policy shifts across the Western alliance suggest otherwise. Momentum is clearly building to repair ties, expand economic links and manage flashpoints through dialogue.

This reflects an acceptance that decoupling from China is both unwise and infeasible. Data shows most Western nations have deepened trade relationships with China over the past decade. Artificially severing mutually beneficial ties is massively disruptive without political payoff.

Especially on shared global challenges like climate change, the West recognizes China’s partnership is indispensable to make progress. No country can tackle transnational problems alone. As China’s global stature has grown, the West wisely seeks to better leverage its capabilities as an asset.

Nevertheless, differences remain substantial across economic, political and security realms. Realigning the relationship after years of confrontation will require sustained effort on multiple fronts. However, renewed engagement aims to strengthen trust and communication to navigate disputes. Some hawks will portray reversing hostility as Western capitulation and naivety that hands China leverage. But pragmatic leaders know that calibrating the relationship to emerging realities is simply realism, not weakness. Previous demonisation proved counterproductive, only stoking tensions and misunderstandings. Constructive engagement aims to avoid miscalculation while serving both sides’ interests. Leaders are rightly ignoring reactionary voices insisting implacable rivalry is unavoidable.

This rethink has been emerging for months among the Western public increasingly concerned about deteriorating ties. Polls revealed populations favoured cooperation over confrontation, recognising China’s growing prominence need not equate to a threat.

Pursuing symbiotic interests in trade, climate, global health and other areas contributes to international stability and prosperity. Western leaders are belatedly following public opinion favoring beneficial diplomacy over costly friction. Some factors likely catalyzed the West’s change of direction. Revelations of China expanding its nuclear arsenal probably stoked fears of a risky arms race absent communication. Western governments also want to avert global divisions given new rifts with Russia and the developing world.

However, the overriding motivation is simply serving national interests. With global challenges mounting, Western pragmatists concluded pointless fighting with China undermines prosperity and security. Mutual participation outperforms attempts at mutual destruction.

This cooperative ethos was highlighted in recent weeks by re-starting various dialogues, easing visa restrictions, and resuming joint climate and military initiatives. Amidst global upheaval, Western nations recognised the multiplier effects from engaging China’s growing strength. Nonetheless, substantial differences remain unresolved. Progress will require sustained commitment, candour and imagination. But renewed high-level engagement has changed the trajectory in a more promising direction.

Both sides likely recognise that history’s arc tends toward integration, not fragmentation. As Premier Li Keqiang said, ceaseless scientific progress draws humanity closer together, compelling countries to understand their shared destiny.

With globalisation an irreversible trend, pursuing symbiosis over discord offers the wisest course. After counterproductive years of hostility, the West is sensibly aiming diplomacy toward this cooperative vision. It offers the path to shared prosperity. Hardliners on all sides will resist thawing relations, since polarization serves political interests. But sober leaders across the West recognize constructive ties with an ascendant China best serve their national welfare.

Publics tired of confrontation also want practical progress on shared interests, not perpetual brinksmanship. The tide of engagement now rising across both shores promises to lift all if leaders stay the prudent course.