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China, US to hold 5th SED at 'critical timing'
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The deepening financial turmoil and the transition in the US government has pushed the coming fifth China-US Strategic Economic Dialogue (SED) further into the limelight, experts told Xinhua on the eve of the talks.

Zhang Hanya, a senior researcher with the National Development and Reform Commission, told Xinhua on Wednesday that the fifth round of the SED that was set to run from Thursday through Friday in Beijing was coming at "a critical time".

US Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson, who is scheduled to arrive in Beijing in the early hours of Thursday, will head a high-level delegation to meet with Chinese Vice Premier Wang Qishan and a number of prominent ministers.

Zhu Guangyao, China's Assistant Minister of Finance, said the two sides would discuss an array of issues of overall, strategic and long-term importance to both economies and hot topics in bilateral economic relations.

These topics would include strategies to manage macro-economic risks, strengthening energy and environmental cooperation, coping with trade challenges, promoting an open investment environment and among others.

"The timing is critical as on the one hand, the United States bore the brunt of the financial turmoil and needed a helping hand from China; on the other hand, this is the transition period between the Bush administration and the Obama administration," said Zhang.

US Assistant Secretary of State Daniel S. Sullivan said in Beijing on Tuesday that the Obama team had already been briefed on the importance of the SED.

"The transition between the Bush administration and the Obama administration is very closely coordinated," he said at the US-China Conference on Innovation and Commercialization, adding the benefits of deepening engagement with China on a wide range of issues covered by the SED had been recognized "pretty broadly" in the United States.

China was still keeping strong economic growth momentum with its economy's fundamentals remaining sound, and had 2 trillion US dollars in foreign reserves, Zhang added.

China registered a 9.9 percent year-on-year gross domestic product (GDP) growth in the first three quarters this year.

The world's fourth largest economy was forecast to expand by more than 9 percent next year, according to a blue paper released Tuesday by the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, a government think tank.

Wang Tongsan, an economist with the academy, said the 9 percent GDP growth next year relied on two factors, namely the financial crisis starting from the United States not to further deteriorate, and the positive effects of the recent 4 trillion yuan (581 billion US dollars) stimulus package unveiled by the Chinese government last month.

Zhang said the United States needed China in helping it survive the financial crisis. On the flip side, if the US economy was drawn into a long-term recession, it was also difficult for the Chinese economy to "outshine others for the long run" as the two economies were closely linked with each other.

Figures from China's General Administration of Customs revealed that the bilateral trade between China and the United States, its second largest trading partner, grew 13.6 percent in the first ten months year on year to 281.3 billion US dollars.

Zhou Shijian, a senior researcher with Beijing-based Tsinghua University, said the United States was aware that to get rid of the financial turmoil, China's cooperation, support and help were indispensable.

The twice-yearly talks, initiated by Chinese President Hu Jintao and US President George W. Bush in 2006, have become an important platform for the economic leaders of both countries to exchange views on bilateral economic and trade relations.

(Xinhua News Agency December 4, 2008)

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