What will Obama bring in several days?

By Shi Weicheng
0 CommentsPrint E-mail China.org.cn, November 14, 2009
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The US House of Representatives voted to honor the 2,650th anniversary of the birth of the Chinese philosopher Confucius some days ago. Across the Pacific, China's central government officially approved the Shanghai Disneyland Project last week. China and the United States have also pledged no new trade protection measures against each other last month.

These all seem to provide a good atmosphere for US President Barack Obama's visit to China next week. There also appears to be a promising future for the reconstruction of Sino-US relations under the background of the wide-spreading financial crisis.

At the same time, a series of American anti-dumping duties on Chinese products have represented the obstacles for smooth communication between the two nations these days. If we add undervaluing the currency and the Tibet issue to this list, the situation presents what we believe is in fact huge uncertainty between the two nations, even excluding Taiwan Issue, which is less focused on at the present but indispensable all the same in terms of Sino-US relations.

The difficulties of such particular and complicated situations have lain paradoxically before the two nations for a long time; yet, at the same time, they are also struggling to find a good way to proceed more smoothly. As the two most vital nations in the world, China and the United States shoulder the world's expectations, in some sense.

In fact, the prospect of a visit from Obama has been drawing much concern ever since he was elected as president. As the official visit draws near, it comes forward as the highlighted affair in the coming week. Does the visit make any changes in Sino-US relations, just as Obama emphasized in his presidential campaign activities and current domestic affairs?

As far as Obama's visit is concerned, what on earth can we expect? It is the first time that Obama visits China as president of the U.S., which will call attention to the outcome of his visit. However, the problem lies in the fact that the more we pay attention to the outcome, the easier it is to leave out the most important factors that steer the direction of Sino-US relations.

Although, to some extent, the visit presents itself to the complicated situation in a positive light, the most challenging issue that deserves our attention is whether the interaction of two nations can be institutionalized, whether it be based on realism, new-liberalism or anything else. As we know, realism has been a good explanation for the reality of international relations. Surely, Sino-US relations are not in a state of exception. By this logic, it is easy to understand the hard times both nations have experienced. Theoretically, the interplay of cooperation and conflict depends strongly on their respective national interests. However, the cost of realism is much more than its benefit, especially due to the current world experiencing the fallout from the economic crisis.

Cooperation under realism needs the two nations to encourage realizing their common interests. This proves that only under institutionalization will the tie of the two nations become a fixed mechanism that would maximize their common interests. Institutionalization may give way to building a new channel to deal with bilateral relations.

Accordingly, we can have more expectations for Obama, but not of any signings of new Sino-US agreements or new joint declarations. Instead, it would be that of some regularity at the dealings of affairs between the two nations, a formal and fixed mechanism based on the existing US-China Strategic and Economic Dialogue, which can move on efficiently in the long run.


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