Editor's Note: At a seminar organized by China.org.cn on Feb. 23 to mark the 40th anniversary of Sino-U.S. relations, Ni Feng, deputy director-general of the Institute of American Studies, Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, talked about the development of the relationship between China and the United States during these past 40 years. The following are extracts from his speech.
From 1972 to the present, China-US relationship has gone through three stages: The first was China-US strategic cooperation stage (1972~1989). The second stage was continuous development in turbulence (1989~2001). The third was a stage of relatively stability (2001~2009).
After Copenhagen Climate Conference in 2009, China-US relationship entered a new stage which here I tentatively call "unstable transition period." Let's see how the two countries experienced the first three major stages.
During the first stage, China and the US came together because of a common enemy. The relationship between the two countries was simple – to cooperatively deal with the common enemy. People also called it the "honeymoon period."
The second stage was from 1989 to 2001, called continuous development in turbulence. There are two important events during this period: Tiananmen Square protests (1989) and the collapse of the Soviet Union.
The purpose of the strategic cooperation between China and the U.S. in the first stage was to deal with the Soviet Union. Once it disappeared, their base of cooperative no longer existed.
Tiananmen Square protests exposed the differences between the two countries in policy and ideology.
Under these circumstances, the relationship between China and the US went through ups and downs of the tumultuous time.
The third stage was the stage of relatively stability. The China-US relationship was relatively stable from "September 11" to Obama's visit to China in 2009.There are mainly three reasons:
Firstly, "911 attacks" happened.
Secondly, the two countries established a smooth working relationship.
Thirdly, two countries had agreed on the issue of Taiwan since 2003. This consensus was limited but very important.
Since Copenhagen Climate Conference in 2009, the China-US relationship again encountered frequent problems. There are four structural problems, with frictions in the two countries' trade relations, human right and Taiwan issues, and a general decline in strategic mutual trust.
There are many reasons for the current situation between China and the US. However, in my opinion, the most important reason is that the power contrast of the two countries changed greatly, and the US no longer has the confidence in its China policy like 10 years ago.