As the curtain is about to rise on the upcoming second round of the China-US Strategic and Economic Dialogue (S&ED), to be held in Beijing on May 24-25, the world's attention will again focus on the Chinese capital.
Chinese Vice Foreign Minister Cui Tiankai said Thursday that in order to achieve positive results from the dialogue, China will strengthen communications, enhance mutual trust and deepen cooperation with the United States.
Analysts say this round of talks is of special significance because it signals a new consensus reached by the two sides after overcoming certain obstacles in their relationship.
Moving towards the same direction
The history of Sino-US relations is full of twists and turns, so every step forward and every turn for the better is precious.
The second S&ED will be another positive turn for both nations after they overcame a number of complicated problems in their relations.
After Barack Obama took over the White House last year, Sino-US relations got off to a good start. Under a consensus reached by President Hu Jintao and Obama in London in April last year, the first S&ED was successfully held in Washington in July of that year and achieved fruitful results.
However, from the end of 2009 to the beginning of 2010, Sino-US relations had been seriously interrupted and bilateral cooperation greatly affected by a series of events, including the US arms sales to Taiwan and US leaders' meeting with the Dalai Lama.
At that time, many outside observers doubted whether Washington would be able to cease those interruptive actions and pave the way for achieving positive results at the second S&ED.
In April, Hu met Obama in Washington while attending the Nuclear Security Summit. During that meeting, Hu put forward a five-point proposal for developing Sino-US relations, and called for "respecting each other's core interests and major concerns and ensuring healthy and stable development of Sino-US relations."
Obama responded positively to the proposal, promising to build a stronger US-China relationship, respect China's core interests, and carefully handle sensitive issues.
The meeting was widely believed as a successful one that was significant to the development of Sino-US relations.
"The recent improvement in Sino-US relations is of course related to China's firm insistence on its right positions," said Zhou Shijian, a senior fellow at the Sino-US Relations Research Center of Tsinghua University.
In recent days, US Ambassador to China Jon Huntsman also said frankly in Washington that due to certain decisions such as the arms sales to Taiwan made by the Obama administration earlier this year, the US-China relationship went through many difficulties and challenges for several months. But that difficult period has gone, and the bilateral relations have entered a new phase.
Unique significance of a unique mechanism
In a recent interview with Xinhua, Taiya Smith, the former lead negotiator for the US-China Strategic Economic Dialogue at the US Treasury Department, likened the two countries to two giant ships in the sea.
She said when the two ships sail toward each other, they need to know the other's course. The S&ED is a unique mechanism to serve that purpose.
Under the mechanism, the two countries are able to hold serious discussions once a year on strategic, comprehensive and long-term issues of mutual interest so that they will be able to deepen mutual understanding, enhance mutual trust and promote cooperation.
Many analysts agree that this round of dialogue will be significant both for bilateral relations and the world situation as a whole.
Tao Wenzhao, a Chinese expert on Sino-US relations, pointed out that it is unprecedented in contemporary international relations that so many top officials from two governments gather at such a huge bilateral meeting as the S&ED.
The second S&ED will be held at a time when the world economy has begun to show signs of stability after the financial crisis but is still faced with uncertainty.
The G-20 summit to be held in Toronto in June will be a crucial top-level gathering in the post-crisis era to discuss the core issue of determining the framework for sustainable economic growth in the world.
"The Sino-US dialogue will serve as an anchor for stabilizing the world economy which is getting out of the crisis and moving towards a relatively healthier post-crisis era," said Fu Mengzi, a researcher with the China Institute of Contemporary International Relations.
US Deputy Secretary of State Jacob Lew said recently that the United States and China share common interests in safeguarding world peace, stability and prosperity, and the two sides will continue to build a positive, cooperative and comprehensive relationship in the 21st century.
John Delury, deputy director at the US-China Relations Research Center of Asia Society, said that US-China relations are currently quiet but "we must see that there are many problems remain unsolved between the two countries." If not handled properly, the problems will surface again.
Therefore, the two countries should seize this round of dialogue as an opportunity to enhance cooperation and build trust as much as possible.
Consensus is the key
According to the Chinese Foreign Ministry, under the strategic track of the second S&ED, both sides will have in-depth discussions on bilateral ties, and regional and global issues.
Consultations between relevant agencies of the two countries will also be held on issues such as energy security, climate change, U.N. peacekeeping and counterterrorism.
Assistant Minister of Chinese Ministry of Finance Zhu Guangyao told reporters that the economic track of the dialogue will focus on four issues: promoting economic recovery and balanced economic growth; promoting mutually beneficial trade and investment while opposing trade protectionism; financial market stability and reform; reforming the international financial system.
Chen Fengying, a fellow at the China Institute of Contemporary International Relations, said the US needs to take substantial steps to relax control on exports to China.
The real issue behind the debate on the Chinese yuan exchange rate is the issue of macroeconomic policy adjustment in China and the United States, and both countries need to change their economic growth modes to achieve economic re-balancing, she said.
Smith said this round of dialogue may involve issues such as China's independent innovation policy, the yuan exchange rate, Internet security and how to conduct concrete cooperation on clean energy technologies.
The United States and China may have different views on the issues, but the key is to resolve conflicts through cooperation and put strategic interests of both nations at the first place.
Tao said that disagreement between the two countries is a normal thing. More importantly, generally speaking, common interests are far greater than differences in their relations.
Beijing hopes to deepen mutual understanding and enhance strategic mutual trust with Washington through the dialogue, so that they will be able to strengthen consultation and coordination whenever problems arise in the future and so that differences will have less negative effects on the bilateral ties.
The first S&ED was a success, and hopefully the second round of talks will also be able to yield similar positive results.