It is fair to say that China's remarkable economic growth, which has transformed it into a top global economic power, would have been much more difficult in the absence of the dramatically rapid and mutually beneficial expansion in the US-Chinese trade and financial relations that followed normalization. China's entry in 2001 into WTO is a case in point.
What is the current geopolitical status of the US-PRC relationship?
An article in Outlook Weekly (July 14, 08) describes the relationship as one of "complex interdependence", in which both sides evaluate each other in pragmatic and moderate terms and in which "the two sides can compete and consult within the existing international rules". It follows that each side would suffer greatly if it acted in a manner that ignored the central reality of our interdependence.
Moreover, given the respective global weight of our two countries, constructive interdependence between us is one of the key sources of global political and economic stability.
To be sure, in so far as the status quo is concerned, a globally ascending China is a revisionist power in that it desires major changes in the international system but it seeks them in a patient, prudent, and peaceful fashion.
Americans who deal with foreign affairs especially appreciate the fact that Chinese strategic thinking about the world has moved away from notions of a global class conflict and violent revolution, emphasizing China's "peaceful rise" in global influence while seeking a "harmonious world". These are concepts which Americans can also share.
Derived from the reality of our interdependence, such common perspectives also make it easier for both of us to cope with residual or potential disagreements, and to cooperate on such challenges as posed by the Democratic People's Republic of Korea's nuclear issue. China's role in the negotiations has been central to the progress so far made.
If we at all times keep in mind the centrality of our interdependence, we will be able to cope with other contentious issues, be they about global trade and finances, or even about our varying views regarding internal values and practices.
What should now be our shared grand goal?
In a dynamically changing world our relationship cannot be static; it will either expand or narrow. The world will benefit, and so will our countries, if it expands.
In the post-Cold War era, the deepening and widening of the American-Chinese partnership is not designed against others – and it does not diminish the importance of the US' or China's close ties with other major powers – but it reflects an increasing awareness of our shared responsibility for global wellbeing.
As a practical matter, we need therefore to widen and deepen our geostrategic cooperation, beyond the immediate need for close collaboration in coping with the global economic crisis.
China is needed as a direct participant in the dialogue with Iran, for China will also be affected if the effort to negotiate ends in failure.