China and the United States have started the new year with major events planned for developing bilateral relations further, beginning with an announcement on Tuesday that President Hu Jintao will visit the US later this year.
During talks between Chinese Vice Foreign Minister Dai Bingguo and visiting US Deputy Secretary of State Robert Zoellick, both sides pledged to carefully prepare Hu's visit, the second in less than 12 months.
Both agreed that the visit is a "big event" for bilateral relations and is of great significance in promoting the constructive and cooperative partnership between the two countries in the new century.
Zoellick, Washington's number two foreign policy official, said the series of meetings he had with Chinese officials on Tuesday were "good and full discussions."
Zoellick arrived in Beijing on Monday evening after concluding a visit to Japan, the first leg of his two-nation Asian trip. On Tuesday morning, Zoellick met with Premier Wen Jiabao, Foreign Minister Li Zhaoxing and also held talks with Dai.
Both sides reaffirmed their willingness to further develop constructive, cooperative relations. They said bilateral relations have developed at a "steady and positive" way over the past year.
Zoellick's meeting with Wen was prolonged far beyond the scheduled time as they "exchanged views on bilateral relations and regional and international issues of common concern."
Briefing the press after the meeting, Wen said China attaches great importance to developing relations with the United States. China is ready to strengthen the bilateral strategic dialogue so as to deepen mutual understanding, enhance mutual trust and maintain the stable, healthy development of Sino-US relations.
Zoellick also met with China's top development planner Ma Kai and head of the banking regulatory commission Liu Mingkang.
Before the meetings, Zoellick had breakfast with Zheng Bijian, a veteran Chinese researcher who helped to characterize Zoellick's definition of China as a "responsible stakeholder."
"I'm pleased to see that the 'stakeholder' concept generates good discussions in China," Zoellick said at a press conference before leaving Beijing for Chengdu on Tuesday afternoon.
Zoellick's current visit to China is part of the system of dialogue developed since Hu and US President George W. Bush agreed last year to develop a constructive and cooperative Sino-US relationship in an all-round manner.
Hu and Bush met five times on different occasions in 2005 and maintained contact over a telephone hotline during the year.
Zoellick and Dai held two rounds of strategic dialogue in August and December last year.
According to sources from the Chinese Foreign Ministry, Zoellick and his Chinese counterpart Dai held an "extensive and constructive" dialogue on major regional and international issues.
As he met with Chinese Foreign Minister Li Zhaoxing, the two sides expressed the willingness to further strengthen cooperation at bilateral and multilateral levels.
During the meetings, Zoellick expressed the wish that China would play a bigger and more positive role in the international system.
Local analysts say the visit of Zoellick at the beginning of the year will help maintain a healthy momentum in bilateral relations in the new year.
(Xinhua News Agency January 25, 2006)