President Jiang Zemin left Beijing yesterday for a significant four-day visit to the United States at the invitation of US President George W. Bush.
This is the third summit meeting in a year's time between the two presidents. The first two were at the Asia-Pacific economic leaders' meeting in Shanghai last October and during Bush's state visit to China in February.
"Under the current complex and volatile international situation, the visit, to which both countries have attached great importance, will show the strong momentum of current Sino-US relations and further push ahead the bilateral constructive and co-operative relationship," said Tao Wenzhao, deputy director of the Institute of American Studies with the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences. " It will have a positive and long-term influence on the process of improving Sino-US ties as well as on the international situation."
Perhaps it is risky to forecast trends in the Sino-US relationship, one of the world's most influential yet volatile state-to-state ties, due to its complexity.
But in Tao's opinion, after experiencing dramatic fluctuations in 2001, the Sino-US relationship is now back on a healthy track and has greatly improved and developed.
The fight against terrorism demonstrates that convergence of interests between the two countries can serve as a catalyst for a strengthened relationship.
Since the two leaders' first meeting in Shanghai last October, the two sides made progress in co-operation in various areas, particularly in the areas of anti-terrorism and non-proliferation.
China has reiterated on many occasions that it opposes terrorism in any form and has rendered support to the US-led anti-terrorism campaign.
To further consolidate its anti-terror co-operation with China, the United States listed the East Turkistan separatists as a terrorist organization in August.
The two countries reached consensus on establishing a constructive and co-operative relationship during their Shanghai talks last October, pointing Sino-US relations in the right direction at a crucial time and paving the way for their further development. This has expanded the common ground and enhanced mutual trust between the two countries.
Bush's visit to China in February was another important milestone in building co-operative and constructive relations.
During their positive and fruitful meeting, Jiang made a four-point proposal for the two countries to safeguard and develop positive momentum in their bilateral ties. Bush expressed that the US expects to expand and strengthen co-operation with China in various areas, which will not only benefit the two countries but also be of significance in safeguarding world peace and promoting co-operation.
Bush's visit revealed that the relationship between the world's most powerful country and the most populous country is changing.
However, what truly matters now for China and the United States is a shared political will to anchor bilateral relations.
The two countries remain different in many ways, but never before have they been so closely bound together.
The Chinese Government has always attached great importance to developing Sino-US relations and has viewed it from a strategic perspective.
The promulgation of the Regulations on the Export Control of Missiles and Missile-related Items and Technologies and the attached Control List in August marked a new step forward in China's legal framework for export control. China opposes the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction and their delivery systems.
Recently, China also tightened controls on the export of dual-use biological agents and related equipment and technologies as well as dual-use chemicals, chemical equipment and technologies to underline it's non-proliferation policy.
As for the Taiwan question, a sensitive issue that could derail Sino-US relations if not properly handled, the United States reaffirmed its adherence to the one-China policy following Taiwan "president" Chen Shui-bian's August 3 claim of "one country on each side", a blatant attempt to divide China.
Within the complicated and fast-changing international situation, China and the United States are enjoying ever expanding room for co-operation.
As major trading partners, the two are tightly interwoven in an increasingly globalized economy. Economic interests are the driving force in bilateral relations and a vital element that both sides have to take into consideration when handling bilateral issues.
Moreover, the two nations, both permanent members of the United Nations Security Council, have to co-operate beyond the economic field. Their bilateral relationship is sure to cast great influence on peace and stability in the Asia-Pacific region and throughout the world.
Many believe that through in-depth talks on bilateral relations and on major international and regional issues of common concern, President Jiang's visit will further mutual understanding and trust between the two countries and push ahead bilateral constructive and co-operative relations.
"Moreover, this visit, ahead of the pending 16th National Congress of the Communist Party of China, exhibits the consistent policy adopted by the Chinese Government towards Sino-US relations," said Zhu Feng, a professor in the School of International Studies at Peking University.
Strictly abiding by the principles laid down in the three Sino-US joint communiques is a guarantee of healthy development in bilateral relations.
As two countries at different stages of economic development, China and the US have distinct priorities.
Divergence is inevitable in state-to-state relations. The course of the bilateral ties rests on how both sides perceive and handle them. The two countries now share fewer differences compared with 30 years ago, while the common ground has been greatly expanded. In maintaining a sound relationship where differences exist, the most productive approach is to let common interests prevail.
"Even regarding some seemingly irreconcilable strategic structural conflicts, a mechanism could be established for the prevention and management of a crisis," according to Su Ge, vice-president of the China Institute of International Studies.
(China Daily October 23, 2002)