By Shen Dingli
China and the United States will celebrate the 30th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations in two weeks. Sino-US relations have undergone profound changes over the past three decades.
In the initial years after diplomacy was normalized, the two countries made joint efforts to curb hegemonism, and that has contributed much to a stable Asia-Pacific region. Since the end of the Cold War, a constructive partnership involving mutual trust and respect has gradually been build up between the two sides.
Undoubtedly, the two counties have different social systems and ideologies due to their histories and cultural backgrounds. Such differences were a big factor hampering the smooth advancement of bilateral ties during the Cold War period and even pushed the two countries to the brink of armed conflicts.
How to better manage one of the most complicated state-to-state relationships in the world has remained a serious topic in the history of bilateral exchanges.
Since the initiation of the reform and opening up policy in 1978, the Chinese government has hammered home its policy that the fledging socialist country should focus on modernization and opening wider to the outside world in the pursuit of more fruitful cooperation with other countries.
At the same time, the world's sole superpower has also made self-examination of its past policies. It is the soul-searching reviews made by the two countries of the world's changing political situations, along with an array of consensus, that have helped set up a cooperative partnership. Peaceful coexistence and mutual benefits achieved within this strategy have contributed much to world peace and progress.
Late Chinese leader Deng Xiaoping and then US president Jimmy Carter both made great contributions to a smooth bilateral relationship. The move made by the two great strategists to pursue mutual peace and forgo confrontation has made for a better world. The then US administration also made a positive response when the insulated East Asian nation adopted its historical reform and opening up initiative. On the basis of a normalized diplomatic relationship, the two countries decided to conduct extensive cooperation on a raft of issues, including China's modernization drive.
The mutual cooperation between the two over the past years has not only increased the opportunity for further development, but also benefited their peoples.
China's economic aggregate has increased by nearly 20 times in the past 30 years and it is now the world's fourth largest economy. At the same time, enhanced economic cooperation with the East Asian nation has also helped boost the world's largest economy.
Beyond their cooperation in the fight against hegemony, China and the US have also had a shared interest in the anti-terror fight, promoting regional stability and other traditional and non-traditional security issues. Now, bilateral cooperation in the economic and financial domains is being strengthened and great efforts have been made to explore a new cooperation model in energy, environmental protection and climate change.
The ever-expanding common grounds have overshadowed the discords between the two countries. However, it is still necessary for the two countries to strive to further strengthen their cooperation foundation, and prevent any contingencies from harming the steady bilateral relationship.
After 30 years of cooperation and friction, Beijing and Washington have both realized that dialogue and cooperation are the only way to peace and a win-win result. It is expected that the established strategic dialogue mechanism promoted by leaders of the two countries will be further strengthened.
China has always taken the peaceful development road since its adoption of the reform and opening up policy. It is in accordance with the times and international practices, and has won the respect of other countries.
Peace and development in the world's largest developing nation are not only in its own interests, but also in the interests of the US. Washington has been gradually adapting to a fast-growing China and holds a positive attitude toward it as a responsible Asian country.
It is expected that mutual trust between China and the US will be enhanced as the two sides deepen cooperation in dealing with the current financial crisis, and other thorny global issues. There are good reasons to believe that a steady Sino-US relationship will bolster peace and prosperity in the world.
The author is director of the Center of American Studies at the Shanghai-based Fudan University.
(China Daily December 16, 2008)