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Will Obama's China policy be a step forward?
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US trade deficit with China will greatly reduce if the US lifts restrictions on hi-tech export to China.

So far, Obama has not commented on the last deal his predecessor struck with China.

The number of areas where bilateral cooperation has improved in recent years, ranging from combating terrorism, preventing disease pandemics to reversing environmental degradation, is quite striking.

Scholars Niall Ferguson and Moritz Schularick went as far as christening such a relationship as "Chimerica." For them, the most important thing to understand about the world economy over the past decade has been the relationship between China and US.

They think of the relationship as one economy called Chimerica. It accounts for around 13 percent of the world's land surface, a quarter of its population, about a third of its gross domestic product, and somewhere over half of the global economic growth of the past six years.

It is still a big guess whether the Obama administration would continue the strengthened ties with China.

Fred Bergsten, director of Washington's Peterson Institute for International Economics, said Obama should initiate annual bilateral meetings with Chinese President Hu Jintao.

Speaking at a Brookings Institution conference, Bergsten said only the United States and China can exert global economic leadership, particularly in critical new areas like combating climate change. He applauded moves to expand the Group of Eight into a more inclusive Group of 20, which includes China and India.

"As we go forward in this whole process, we need to increasingly see at the center of the world's economic steering process an informal G2 between the US and China," he said.

G2, G8, G20, or Gwhatever as we may call it, the presidents of the two countries have communicated frequently and met five to six times per year at international meetings.

The intergovernmental relationship has never been broader or more deeply institutionalized. There are more than 60 bilateral dialogues and working groups in existence. The most important of these are the Strategic Economic dialogue and the Senior Dialogue on Global Issues. The communication in these dialogues is professional and cooperative.

John Thornton of the Brookings Institution emphasized China's growing economic power. He called the US to lift the remaining barriers restricting Chinese ownership of US companies.

Yet commentators should hesitate before prophesying a rosy picture for a Sino-US relationship under the Obama presidency. At its start treating the sick economy will top his agenda, followed by an array of priorities including billions of dollars for renewable energy, education and health care innovations. China won't become an issue for Obama's first 100 days as president, and beyond.

The secretary of state-designate has left a note of toughness in her remarks during Senate Committee on Foreign Relations hearings.

A positive and cooperative relationship between the two countries is not "one-way effort - much of what we will do depends on the choices China makes about its future at home and abroad."

Traditionally, the Democratic Party endows trade protectionism compared to the Republicans.

Yet trade war or conflict seems a less likely scenario than a continuation of cooperation between the two countries.

The strategy of engagement initiated by former US president Richard Nixon and sustained by all his successors to date has left the new US administration no choice but to keep the momentum, if not moving it forward.

(China Daily January 20, 2009)

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