As China and the United States started 2009 with marking three decades' diplomatic ties on Thursday, what does the future hold for the two countries?
"A better relationship," said the U.S. Ambassador to China Clark Randt in an interview with Xinhua on Monday.
Strong China ties as Bush's major legacy
"People don't appreciate what a personal interest President George W. Bush had in China," Randt said.
Since taking office in 2001, George W. Bush really "set the direction and the tone" of the bilateral ties, Randt said.
Over the past eight years, Bush came to China four times. No other sitting U.S. president had ever come to China more than once. Bush had 19 face-to-face bilateral meetings with his Chinese counterpart Hu Jintao. They also had telephone talks from time to time.
"There had never been so many direct high-level exchanges between the two countries," Randt said.
"Personal connections are the foundations that cement mutual trust," Randt said, recalling President Jiang Zemin's visit to Texas's Crawford ranch in 2002. George W. Bush and his family were also invited to a dinner at Zhongnanhai leadership compound in downtown Beijing last summer.
On top of that, President Hu and President George W. Bush agreed on setting up some dialogue mechanisms, like the strategic economic dialogue and senior-level dialogue, the ambassador said.
The two countries now have more than 60 annual different dialogues, covering economy, science, environment, energy, sustainable development among others.
For an administration still bogged down in Iraq and Afghanistan, Randt nodded to Xinhua's question whether strong ties with China were Bush's major foreign legacy.
Striking economic ties
Despite ups and downs over the past three decades, the China-U.S. ties have transformed into a full-fledged relationship.
"The relationship is becoming so broad and deep," the ambassador said, citing bilateral cooperation and joint efforts on global issues ranging from denuclearizing the Korean Peninsula to reshaping the world financial system.
But the most striking part of the relationship was the level of economic interdependence between the superpower and the rising power.
China and the United States accounted for 40 percent of the world's GDP. The two countries were each other's second largest trading partner.
Despite the grave global financial turmoil, China-U.S. trade still kept a strong momentum as bilateral trade volume rose by 11.6 percent in the first eleven months of 2008 to 307.8 billion U.S. dollars.
While commenting on bilateral economic cooperation, Randt said, "That's all part of the good story."
The ambassador cited the twice-yearly strategic economic dialogues(SED) as a case in point.
"Because of the SED, the financial leadership on both sides know each other very well. They can talk to each other. There weren't any surprises. It is quite clear to officials on both sides that we are in the same boat economically. We really can't do this without one another."
On the actions responding to the financial crisis, Randt hailed the well-coordinated efforts between the two countries.
"You are trying to deal with the economic crisis. You see the coordinated interest cuts. President Hu was among the first to agree to come to G20 meeting in Washington.
"China has played a very positive role, continued to be active in the market in a stabilizing way."
As for trade frictions between the two countries, Randt said issues are unavoidable in face of the staggering bilateral trade volume.
"We had 380 billion dollar two-way trade last year. Of course there are going to be issues. If you don't have trade problems, you don't have trade.
"We can solve those issues. The best way is consultation."
More common interests ahead
Looking to the future, Randt said U.S.-China relationship will continue to get better.
"As the world gets more complicated, our interdependence and complementariness become even more important."
He said U.S.-China significant common interests were going to expand rather than contract and their common strategic interests would increase.
"We both want peace. That's good for our people and economies. We want our citizens to be prosperous. So we need economies to work well."
When asked what the most serious issue is likely to be between the two countries over the next four years, Randt said "I guess trade will become more difficult."
Randt didn't elaborate but stressed that was an issue that can be managed.Xinhua News Agency
As for Taiwan, an always thorny topic on China-U.S. agenda, Randt said, "I think it will continue along its current good path."
Ties between the Chinese mainland and Taiwan have warmed since the Kuomintang won the leader's election and returned to power in March 2008.
"If it gets to be a problem, we know how sensitive it is," Randt said.
"I can't speak for them. But I am quite sure the next administration will understand the sensitivity of the Taiwan issue and the importance of the one-China issue."
With his departure ahead, Randt said his legacy would be good U.S.-China relations.
"We can meet regularly with Chinese counterparts to discuss about working together to resolve global hot spots and regional issues. When I arrived, we could not do such things," he said.
"I am very proud of the fact that we are leaving U.S.-China relations in much better shape than we got 8 years ago," he concludes.
(Xinhua News Agency January 2, 2009)