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Much of the America’s public attention is focused on bread-and-butter, pocketbook issues. Yet, there is a major geopolitical tectonic shift going on that will impact us all — and few are paying attention to it — the U.S.-China relationship

It's the most important bilateral relationship in the world today. All major global issues will intersect at the corner of Beijing and Washington, D.C. How our respective leaders address these problems between our nations will impact the people of China, America, and all of humanity.

The China transformation we have witnessed from a poor, backward society into one of the world’s most powerful economies with rising military might is amazing and universally acknowledged.

As the 21st century rolls on, one thing is certain: China, the Middle Kingdom, will cast its giant shadow over the world. What happens in China will not stay in China. It will wash up on shores across the globe.

The Trump administration has turned America’s 40-plus years of engagement with China on its head with a trade war that to-date has caused unprecedented friction between our two counties — without producing a transformative agreement that advances the interests of American consumers, farmers and manufacturers. In fact, Americans are paying a stiff price.  

The trade war is tactically flawed. We are alienating our allies by reacting to individual events rather than following a thought-out strategy. Being angry with China for unfair trade practices and responding with unilateral tariffs seems reactionary. Yet this drives our policy with China today. We need a greater depth of integration of our interests and our values that will be sustainable over the long haul, rather than a perceived momentary win, beating China with tit-for-tat.

Finding sensible, mutually respectful, win-win solutions to the trade dispute is good for the people of China, America and the global economy.

America needs not only to assert its own interests, but also to understand China’s or else we'll never get anywhere.

We are past the time where America can simply demand that China accept unequal treaties. China may bend momentarily, but it will eventually seek its own level and take its own path.

At the same time, it would be naive to think we are not in an era of great power competition with China. We must find a way to simultaneously collaborate and compete with China.

America must respond to China's rise, but doing so will require investment in education, workforce and infrastructure. It is vital to build an understanding of the China challenge to create consensus and political will, not to hold China back, but to propel Michigan and America forward.

Tom Watkins has a life-long interest in China and served as Michigan’s superintendent of schools, and the president and CEO of the economic council of Palm Beach County, Fla. 

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