Skip to main content

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

By Stan Grant, CNN
November 8, 2012 -- Updated 0031 GMT (0831 HKT)
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
September 16, 2014 -- Updated 0929 GMT (1729 HKT)
Christians in eastern China keep watch in Wenzhou, where authorities have demolished churches and removed crosses.
September 10, 2014 -- Updated 0538 GMT (1338 HKT)
Home-grown hip-hop appeals to a younger generation but its popularity has not translated into record deals and profits for budding rap artists.
September 9, 2014 -- Updated 0545 GMT (1345 HKT)
Reforms to the grueling gaokao - the competitive college entrance examination - don't make the grade, says educator Jiang Xueqin.
September 5, 2014 -- Updated 1218 GMT (2018 HKT)
Beijing grapples with reports from Iraq that a Chinese national fighting for ISIS has been captured.
September 1, 2014 -- Updated 0200 GMT (1000 HKT)
CNN's David McKenzie has tasted everything from worms to grasshoppers while on the road; China's cockroaches are his latest culinary adventure.
September 5, 2014 -- Updated 0057 GMT (0857 HKT)
Beijing rules only candidates approved by a nominating committee can run for Hong Kong's chief executive.
August 29, 2014 -- Updated 1914 GMT (0314 HKT)
China warns the United States to end its military surveillance flights near Chinese territory.
August 29, 2014 -- Updated 0312 GMT (1112 HKT)
China has produced elite national athletes but some argue the emphasis on winning discourages children. CNN's Kristie Lu Stout reports
August 19, 2014 -- Updated 0513 GMT (1313 HKT)
Chinese are turning to overseas personal shoppers to get their hands on luxury goods at lower prices.
August 15, 2014 -- Updated 0908 GMT (1708 HKT)
Experts say rapidly rising numbers of Christians are making it harder for authorities to control the religion's spread.
August 11, 2014 -- Updated 0452 GMT (1252 HKT)
"I'm proud of their moral standing," says Harvey Humphrey. His parents are accused of corporate crimes in China.
August 6, 2014 -- Updated 1942 GMT (0342 HKT)
A TV confession detailing a life of illegal gambling and paid-for sex has capped the dramatic fall of one of China's most high-profile social media celebrities.
July 31, 2014 -- Updated 0410 GMT (1210 HKT)
President Xi Jinping's campaign to punish corrupt Chinese officials has snared its biggest target -- where can the campaign go from here?
July 30, 2014 -- Updated 0712 GMT (1512 HKT)
All you need to know about the tainted meat produce that affects fast food restaurants across China, Hong Kong, and Japan.
July 18, 2014 -- Updated 0230 GMT (1030 HKT)
Some savvy individuals in China are claiming naming rights to valuable foreign brands. Here's how companies can combat them.
July 16, 2014 -- Updated 0911 GMT (1711 HKT)
Is the Chinese president a true reformist or merely a "dictator" in disguise? CNN's Beijing bureau chief Jaime FlorCruz dissects the leader's policies
July 8, 2014 -- Updated 0344 GMT (1144 HKT)
With a population of 1.3 billion, you'd think that there would be 11 people in China who are good enough to put up a fight on the football pitch.
ADVERTISEMENT