Second only to the huge imbalance in bilateral trade, intellectual property rights (IPR) protection is the major flashpoint between China and the United States.
The two governments' latest meeting in Beijing, with their expression of shared commitment to advancing cooperation, is an encouraging sign that their interaction is finally shifting onto a healthy track.
It is high time the two put an end to the endless, and at the same time fruitless, blame game.
Finger-pointing over the years has contributed little beyond brewing distrust between the two countries' trade authorities as well as law enforcement agencies.
The situation began showing improvement when the two sides started conducting meaningful dialogue and finally got down to business.
If the rampant street peddlers hawking pirated DVDs provided a forceful US case against alleged Chinese negligence in law enforcement, they are much less visible now. The remaining hawkers now operate in fear of arrest. This reflects a substantial climate change.
The Chinese authorities' high-profile 100-day crackdown on IPR piracy that is now a long-term campaign clearly sends the message that the fight against IPR abuse is not a battle to be won overnight.
Law enforcement has its blind spots, which explains why we can still see illicit DVD peddlers. But this is only a partial explanation.
Street peddlers are at the very end of the long and complex supply chain. The roots of IPR piracy can usually be traced to outside China. That is why the Chinese authorities have insisted on cross-border collaboration.
They are not dodging responsibility. No matter how hard they try at home, the crackdown will be limited as long as the roots lie somewhere else. Well-coordinated cross-border actions have proved effective.
Given its high business stakes in IPR protection in China, as well as its expertise in this area, the United State is in a good position to lend a helping hand.
But more important than that, the United States must first be aware that China is not the half-hearted partner the US has imagined.
(China Daily March 29, 2007)