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China-US Relations: Neither Enemy Nor Close Friend
Following the departure from China and return to the United States by President George W. Bush, the impact of the recent China-US Summit on China-US relations still attracts much attention from government officials, experts and the media. With this in mind, our staff reporter interviewed Wang Yizhou, vice-director of Institute of World Economics and Politics under the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences.

Reporter: Some analysts think Bush’s itinerary -- “Japan first, China second” -- for his visit established that he considers Japan above China in his Asia strategy. What is your view?

Wang Yizhou: To some extent, Bush does emphasize Japan. He is trying to change the influence of Bill Clinton’s “Bypass Diplomacy” (when Clinton visited China, he did not stop in Japan before or after his visit) to make the point that the importance of Japan to the United States has not changed. Since Japan is an ally of the United States, it is understandable that Bush chose Japan as his first stop. But last does not mean least important, Bush’s “Japan first, China second” schedule does not mean he ignores the strategic importance of China.

Reporter: China and the United States think differently on many issues such as the Taiwan question, National Missile Defense, proliferation of nuclear weapons etc. on which they could not reach consensus. Therefore, Bush’s visit was an empty show. What do you think?

Wang: I don’t think it’s true that China and the United States did not achieve any substantive progress. In fact, the two sides reached certain agreements and set the tone for the coming routine talks in many fields. The most important fruits of Bush’s visit is that he built a cooperative atmosphere and turned China-US relations back onto the right track to develop constructive relations based on cooperation and mutual understanding, mutual trust and mutual respect. The unfolding history of relations between China and the United States has taught us that China-US relations have had to experience a period of breaking in before entering into a normal period. In this sense, the China-US Summit at least built a good base for the improvement and development of China-US relations during Bush’s next three-year term. Because face-to-face communication is of vital importance to both sides, through having such contact the United States can understand China correctly, especially the attitude of Chinese people on many issues.

Reporter: American Ambassador to China Clark T. Randt said he regarded Bush’s visit as a new milestone in China-US relations. Do you think the visit stands as a significant point for new strategic relations?

Wang: It depends on the way you look at it. If judging on the basis of concrete treaties or settling past differences, it is very hard to say a milestone was achieved. However, if judging from the point of view of enhancing trust and dissolving doubts and changing an atmosphere of no-confidence, it is a very important visit without question. Neither “Enemy” nor “close friend” describe normal China-US relations. Bilateral relations can be stabilized on the basis of seeking common ground while shelving differences only after the two sides acknowledge existing differences. After one-year of breaking in, Bush’s China policy is growing mature, so we can see his visit as a symbol of immaturity to maturity.

Reporter: What will be the biggest differences as well as points of agreement in the immediate future?

Wang: As a matter of fact, both sides can cooperate in many ways. From the history of China-US relations, the increase of the trade and economic relations has always been the most important driving force to push bilateral relations forward. According to our statistics, China-US trade value has surpassed US$80 billion, which is one of the important bilateral trade relationships in the world. And it might become the biggest bilateral trade relationship if it keeps its developing trend, which benefits the both sides. On the other hand, both China and the United States are major powers in terms of politics and security. They need each other in the cooperation of international security affairs. The United States needs China’s support in a series of issues such as Asian-Pacific affairs, anti-terrorism and non-proliferation of nuclear weapons. As for China, it also needs to cooperate with the United States in many international and regional issues.

However, structural contradictions do exist in the bilateral ties. Among them, the Taiwan question is the most important one. Taiwan questions are completely an internal affair in our eyes, a problem left over from a special historical period. The United States always thinks it has a special obligation to Taiwan and special treaty relations. Therefore, no matter what time, past, now, future, Taiwan question is a “meteorological symbol” in China-US relations. Although the both sides have different views on the definition of terrorism, international arms control and some other issues, the two countries are not apt to fight over these issues. But the Taiwan question is an exception. If the two sides fail to handle it properly, it is possible for China-US relations to go backwards on a full-scale level.

(中国青年报 [China Youth Daily] translated by Zheng Guihong for china.org.cn March 5, 2002)

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