Building the Sino-U.S. bridge

By Wang Honggang
0 Comment(s)Print E-mail Beijing Review, August 18, 2011
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Building trust: U.S. President Barack Obama meets Chinese Vice Premier Wang Qishan and State Councilor Dai Bingguo in Washington, D.C. on May 9 [Beijing Review/Zhang Jun] 

Sincere talks

Against this backdrop, the third round of the S&ED sought to narrow differences, enhance mutual trust and expand cooperation, with the aim of helping to build a long-term partnership between China and the United States.

This round of the S&ED displayed several highlights. To begin with, it created a favorable atmosphere for the two countries to re-forge an economic balance and address their disputes.

During the dialogue, both countries expressed their interests clearly. The United States asked China to accelerate the appreciation of the renminbi, open up financial markets, treat U.S. companies on an equal footing and strengthen intellectual property protection. China, in turn, asked the United States to pursue a responsible fiscal policy, relax hi-tech export controls against China, recognize China's market economy status, treat Chinese investors fairly and refrain from politicizing economic issues.

Generally, the two countries managed to strike a balance, as evidenced in the Sino-U.S. Comprehensive Framework for Promoting Strong, Sustainable and Balanced Growth and Economic Cooperation, a milestone document signed at the S&ED. If this positive trend continues, it will greatly contribute to sustainable economic development for both countries and an economic re-balancing between them.

Another highlight was the establishment of the Sino-U.S. Strategic Security Dialogue (SSD). The military relationship has always been a weak area of Sino-U.S. relations. The SSD aims to make up for this by providing a forum for the two countries to address security issues, such as nuclear safety and maritime security.

With the inauguration of the SSD, a security track was added to the S&ED, which was originally a dialogue with two tracks—a strategic track and an economic track. Now, the S&ED involves three teams—an economic team, a diplomatic team and a security team—from each country.

During the first SSD, the two sides reached a number of agreements, including the launch of bilateral consultations on Asia-Pacific issues as well as a visit by Chen Bingde, Chief of the General Staff of the People's Liberation Army, to the United States on May 15-22.

Both countries have great expectations on the future role of the SSD. Given the importance of the Asia-Pacific region and due to the two countries' all-round engagement with other countries in this region, they need to give proper consideration to a series of issues, including balancing interests, developing mutually inclusive cooperative mechanisms, managing conflicts and sharing prosperity. This will be essential for China and the United States to realize peaceful coexistence in the Asia-Pacific region.

In addition, the United States aspires to play a dominant role in the new frontier of sea, airspace, outer space and cyberspace governance. Therefore, on the one hand, it needs support from emerging countries like China; on the other hand, it finds it necessary to regulate these countries' actions. Given China's growing concern over security issues, it also needs to strengthen coordination and cooperation with the United States.

Notably, the S&ED produced positive progress in strengthening strategic mutual trust. The S&ED process provides an opportunity for China and the United States to discuss strategic and long-term topics. It helps them to eliminate suspicions and build strategic mutual trust through dialogue and cooperation.

At this year's S&ED, the two countries decided to expand cooperation and narrow differences while sticking to their own values and principles. During the dialogue, the U.S. side further showed respect for the Chinese way of thinking. Clinton described the development of Sino-U.S. relations with a Chinese saying—"like a person crossing a river by feeling his way over the stones." She called on the two sides to effectively manage their complicated bilateral relations and not to let slippery stones derail progress. U.S. Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner also quoted the Chinese saying, "share fortunes together, meet challenges together," to call for further cooperation between the two major players in the global economy.

Of course, the two sides' disagreements on issues such as human rights remained at the S&ED. But the fact that they could discuss these differences and make sure such differences did not interfere with the progress of other issues was a step forward.

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