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Foreign Policy

A Monumental Blueprint for a New Model of A Major-Country Relationship

Jul 16 , 2013
  • Tao Wenzhao

    Researcher, Chinese Academy of Social Sciences


Tao Wenzhao

To Enhance Cooperation and Abandon Zero-sum Theory

One month ago, the Heads of States of the two countries had a historic meeting at the Annenberg Estate of California. The two sides made a firm commitment to building a new model of a major-country relationship between them, which has clearly set the course for the bilateral relations. During the current round of S&ED, the two sides made it clear that the purpose of the dialogue was to implement the consensus that the Heads of States of the two countries had reached and the lists of the outcomes have fully testified to this.

The dialogue on the Strategic Track covered a wide range of issues and produced remarkable outcomes. The bilateral cooperation in responding to climate change and in energy, in particular, has made headway every year since the signing of the 10-year China-U.S. Energy and Environment Cooperation Framework in 2008, and has yielded even more gratifying results this year. This has indeed become an important growth point in bilateral cooperation and has shown the world a high sense of responsibility of the two countries to the international community.

The two sides agreed to explore a notification mechanism for major military activities, which is an eye-catching achievement, as the military relations between the two countries have been a weak link in the bilateral relations. The fact that both sides agreed to explore the possibilities of establishing such a mechanism shows the desire of the two sides to include their military relations in the said new model of the major-country relationship and to do something solid in this regard.

The two sides announced a decision to establish a hotline between the Special Representatives of the Heads of States of the two countries. This shows that enhanced bilateral relations necessitates more frequent and closer contacts and interaction between the two countries. The hotline, once established, enables each side to brief the other of its intention so as to avoid any possible misinterpretation or misjudgment. This is a positive move toward improving the bilateral relations.

The dialogue on the economic track has produced a wide-ranging, massive list of outcomes, which fully reflects the degree of the interdependence between the two countries and their intertwined interests. Some of the issues stand out more conspicuously than others. The negotiation on the China-U.S. Bilateral Investment Treaty is one of them. The two sides have been engaged in the negotiation on the Treaty for about nine years with little progress. But this round of the S&ED has decided to start substantive negotiations on the Treaty. The U.S. side has pledged to treat Chinese investment fairly and deliver an open investment environment for Chinese enterprises when reforming its export control system. China, on the other hand, has undertaken to reform its administrative screening and approval system for greater and better investment facilitation. The two sides have encouragingly agreed to advance the bilateral cooperation through 28 other institutional arrangements.

Manage and Neutralize differences

The relationship between China and the United States is one of both cooperation and competition, with cooperation outweighing competition. However, there are differences between the two countries. Yet, the two sides did not shy away or evaded their differences at this round of dialogue. For example, on regional challenges, the Chinese side urged the U.S. side to respect the facts, distinguish right from wrong and refrain from doing anything that might further complicate the issue. President Obama, on the other hand, “urged China to manage the disputes over the South China Sea peacefully without the use of intimidation or coercion” at his meeting with Wang Yang and Yang Jiechi. In other words, the two sides have different positions on this issue. The U.S. “rebalancing” strategy has, in fact, complicated the security situation in the region and is not conducive to a solution to these historical issues. All this shows that the two sides should communicate with each other further on this issue and should together put in place a sound interaction mechanism on regional affairs.

Since last year, the U.S. side has played up the cyber-security issue. But recently, the whistle-blowing by Edward Snowden has subjected the U.S. administration to criticisms of world public opinion. The Chinese side exercised restraint without taking advantage of this event when the Cyber Working Group (CWG) met during the Dialogue. The U.S. side expressed its disappointment over Snowden’s departure from Hong Kong. But there is nothing wrong for the central government of the People’s Republic of China to respect the law-based decision of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region, as the policy of “one country, two systems” is in force in Hong Kong and the mainland of China. The first CWG meeting went quite well. The two sides had a candid and in-depth discussion and agreed to take practical measures to enhance the mechanism so that it could play a constructive role in building up mutual trust, removing misgivings and expanding cooperation. If we could turn the two countries with differences into cooperating with each other, it would be a great blessing for the bilateral relations.

What people are looking forward now is that the two sides will work together and implement the consensus that has been reached on paper as soon as possible and as thoroughly as possible so that the building of a new model of major-country relationship between China and the United States will move forward step by step.

Tao Wenzhao is a Researcher for the Institute of American Studies at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences.

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