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Bush's foreign policy legacy not without merits
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China is a big country on the rise. US politicians and strategists, convinced that rising major powers tend to try to challenge the existing hegemony, have always been concerned about China's growing strength. That is why the Bush administration treated China as a strategic competitor early on.

After the September 11 attacks, or maybe when then Secretary of State Colin Powell visited Beijing in July that year, the Bush administration made significant adjustments to its China policy and made cooperation between the two countries a top priority.

Compared with the US-EU and the US-Russia relations, it is quite remarkable that the Bush government has managed to forge a relationship of cooperation between the biggest rising power and the existing superpower in the world that has so far achieved the longest period of stable bilateral ties after the tumultuous post-Cold War era.

Even amid rising noises of Western threats to boycott the Beijing Olympic Games earlier this year, President Bush more or less maintained his support for China's right to realize its century-old dream by reaffirming his attendance at the Opening Ceremony of the Beijing Olympiad. He is the first US president to attend the Opening Ceremony of an Olympic Games held in a foreign country, a feat hard to ignore in the history of the United States and of the US-China relations.

Politically and historically speaking, the development of the Sino-US relationship will have a great and positive impact on the future of the world. The fact that the US government under President Bush achieved the longest period of stable development of the US-China ties should qualify as the greatest foreign policy legacy of his administration.

Unlike the US-Soviet relations of the Cold-War era, the current Sino-US ties serve the political, security, economic and cultural exchanges between the two countries in the era of globalization, as their national interests are more intertwined and overlapping than ever before.

The two nations still find themselves lacking mutual strategic confidence and challenged by contradictions and frictions every now and then. But the situation in which their interests are tightly latched together requires both governments to think carefully and act cautiously when it comes to maintaining bilateral ties. This will benefit not only the two countries but also the world as a whole.

Last but not the least, the disablement of the nuclear facilities of the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK), as a regional issue, may also be an "irreversible" foreign policy legacy to the Bush administration's credit.

The DPRK halted the nuclear disablement process by reactivating its Yongbyon nuclear facility because of differences over the way to verify compliance with the US after it submitted its detailed report on its nuclear program to the International Atomic Energy Agency in June.

However, the two countries finally reached an agreement during a Pyongyang visit in early October by Christopher Hill, chief US delegate to the Six Party Talks on the Korea Nuclear Issue. After that the US removed the DPRK from its list of governments "supporting terrorism".

The turn of events not only rescued the Korean Peninsula denuclearization process from derailment but also prevented the achievement of the Six Party Talks from going down the drain after five years of painstaking efforts.

The ultimate resolution of the Korean nuclear issue may still prove an arduous and delicate undertaking from now on, but it will be kept going till Bush's term in office is up and considered one of his achievements in foreign affairs.

It should be mentioned that the US government under President Bush has made some progress in developing its relations with Latin American countries. While Bush became the US president who visited more Latin American nations than any of his predecessors, the US hosted and took part in three summit meetings of American countries. Though little progress has been made in establishing a pan-Americas free trade zone, the US has signed bilateral free trade pacts with 10 Latin American nations so far.

The author, Fu Mengzi, is assistant president of the China Institute of Contemporary International Relations.

(China Daily November 7, 2008)

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