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Foreign Policy

Sound China-US Interaction in Asia-Pacific Region is Crucial to Bilateral Relations

Jun 09 , 2012

China and the United States are located on the two sides of the Pacific Ocean. The two countries have more overlapping interests and more frequent interactions in the Asia-Pacific than anywhere else. Their regional policies and interactions have a major bearing on the development and stability of the region and are taken very seriously by both sides.

President Hu Jintao and President Obama held their 12th official meeting last month during the G20 Summit in Los Cabos. The two presidents reaffirmed the commitment to jointly building a cooperative partnership based on mutual respect and mutual benefit and exploring ways to build a new type of relationship between major countries.

China and the United States may begin their endeavor of building a new type of relationship between major countries here in the Asia-Pacific. And I believe that the success or failure of such endeavor really hinges on the region. The two sides should work together to explore patterns of positive interaction in the Asia-Pacific that features peaceful coexistence, healthy competition and win-win cooperation. Success in this regard will not only mean success in building a new type of relationship between major countries but also make important contribution to peace, stability and development in the Asia-Pacific. In fact, the two sides have already reached important agreement on how China and the United States should get along with each other in the Asia-Pacific, and that was literally made clear in the China-US Joint Statement released during the state visit by President Hu Jintao to the United States in January last year. What needs to be done now is to truly implement the consensus on the ground. Along this line, we will work with the US side and do the following:

The first is to nurture mutual trust. Building mutual trust is a two-way process that requires sustained and serious efforts by both sides. Each should view the other side's strategic intentions in an objective and rational manner, and take concrete steps so as to forge a virtuous cycle of mutual trust and cooperation with the two being mutually reinforcing. China and the United States are shaping each other's Asia-Pacific policies. If one takes the other as a genuine partner, one will get a partner indeed.

Secondly, the two sides need to have candid communication. Sound, steady and sustained growth of China-US relations are important to the two countries, the region and the world at large. Meanwhile, China-US relations are highly complex and new issues will keep emerging. The two sides need to have candid communication, make their interests and concerns clear to each other and find new ways and new measures to address the issues. Over the past three years or more, China and the United States have been engaged in candid and in-depth discussions on the regional situation, their respective Asia-Pacific policies and regional hotspot issues through such channels as leaders' meetings, the Strategic and Economic Dialogues, Strategic Security Dialogue and the Consultations on the Asia-Pacific. The two countries have maintained close communication and coordination in regional multilateral settings such as the Asia-Pacific Economic Leaders' Meeting, the East Asia Summit and the ARF. And the two countries have had useful discussions on how they can get along with each other in the Asia-Pacific region. We applaud all this and we hope that the two sides will continue to make good use of these communication channels.

Third, the two sides need to expand cooperation. China and the United States have extensive common interests in the Asia-Pacific. Both sides hope to see economic growth and greater trade and investment facilitation in the region. And both sides hope to see peace and stability continue to prevail in the region and relevant hotspot issues being brought under control. Both need to tackle the challenges of terrorism, piracy, transnational crimes and pandemics and both stand to benefit from the sound development of regional mechanisms and win-win regional cooperation. There is a lot that the two sides can do together.

Fourth, the two sides need to properly manage differences. China and the United States are different in history, culture, development stages and social systems. It is just natural for them to have disagreements, colliding interests and different approaches in some regional affairs. China-US relations are now mature enough that the two sides can not only focus on their commonalities but also, and more importantly, approach their differences correctly. The two sides should both take a more open, accommodating and positive stance. They should "list" their differences candidly, and manage and resolve such differences through level-headed and pragmatic discussions. They should identify shared interests and the biggest common divisor in bilateral relations, and remove obstacles that might hinder sound interactions between China and the United States in the Asia-Pacific.

In June last year, China and the United States formally launched the Consultations on the Asia-Pacific under the framework of the China-US Strategic and Economic Dialogues. In less than one year, US Assistant Secretary of State Kurt Campbell and I have co-chaired three consultations. The frequency is rarely seen in the over 60 dialogue and consultation mechanisms between China and the United States. In the consultations, the two sides have had candid and in-depth dialogue on a wide range of topics including the situation in the Asia-Pacific, their respective policies and interactions in the region, regional cooperation mechanisms and hotspot issues. This has increased mutual understanding, expanded common ground and facilitated cooperation between the two sides. What has happened shows that China and the United States have the capability and wisdom to ensure sound interactions in the Asia-Pacific.

In a few days' time, the ASEAN-plus foreign ministers' meetings will be convened in Phnom Penh, the capital of Cambodia. Foreign ministers of the participating countries will gather to discuss ways for upholding peace and stability and advancing development and prosperity in the region. Now that the world economic recovery remains fragile and development and cooperation in East Asia is drawing increasing attention, China is ready to work with all participating countries, including the United States, in a spirit of mutual respect and seeking common ground while reserving differences, to actively explore concrete measures to deepen mutual trust among various parties, consolidate the growth momentum of the regional economy and strengthen regional security cooperation, so as to jointly uphold the sound environment of peace, stability and prosperity in the region.


Cui Tiankai is the Chinese Vice Foreign Minister. This is the abstract of his speech made at the Asia Society Hong Kong Center On 5 July 2012.

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