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Will Obama's China policy be a step forward?
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By Cai Hong 

China is not at the peak of US President Barack Obama's game now. When the time comes, will he deliver "change", as he promised, to the United States' policy toward China?

In the remarks to the US Senate Committee on Foreign Relations during her testimony as secretary of state-designate on Jan 13, Hillary Clinton called China "a critically important actor" in a changing global landscape.

"We want a positive and cooperative relationship with China, one where we deepen and strengthen our ties on a number of issues, and candidly address differences where they persist," she said.

She listed security and economic issues as the areas for cooperation between the two countries, including terrorism, proliferation, climate change and reforming financial markets.

For the first time, China was being exploited so little at the hearings for secretary of state-designate at US Senate Committee on Foreign Relations. This should be a sign for a more mature relationship between China and the US.

The Bush administration has left a favorable China legacy. In his foreign policy remarks on Jan 15, outgoing President George W. Bush highlighted his "strengthened ties with China".

One week before the Bush administration was to leave office, the US sealed a milestone pact with China clearing the way for full implementation of a trade program for dual-use technology goods.

The US Department of Commerce implemented a new export control policy toward China designed to tighten restrictions on dual-use technology exports. Among the technology covered under the new export policy are depleted uranium, lasers, certain types of avionics and aircraft equipment.

At the same time, the department implemented the "validated End-User", or VEU, program in China. The US government has approved five Chinese companies for participation in the VEU program. Being designated by the US government as a VEU means individual export licensing requirements will be removed on shipments of controlled items to the five companies.

In return, the companies agreed to on-site audits by US officials and strict record-keeping requirements. This program is expected to reduce the time, expense, and "uncertainty" in the licensing process and sharpen US exporters' competitive edge in China.

US Under Secretary of Commerce Mario Mancuso said in a statement last week that the latest deal "will maximize the security and trade-enhancing benefits of the VEU program and continue a promising chapter in civilian US-China high technology trade".

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