The U.S.-China relationship is the most consequential bilateral relationship in the world, unique in its history, scale, and global impact. Through the increasingly interconnected world economy, our numerous people-to-people exchanges, and the constant flow of information between us, our two great nations are more dependent upon each other than ever before, and how our countries work together in the future will leave a significant impression on the rest of the world. This is why U.S. President Barack Obama and Chinese President Hu Jintao, in their most recent summit in Washington, reaffirmed their commitment “to building a positive, cooperative, and comprehensive U.S.-China relationship for the 21st century, which serves the interests of the American and Chinese peoples and of the global community.”
As developments unfold around the world—on the Korean peninsula, at international climate discussions, in the global economic system, and across the Pacific in newly resumed U.S.-China military exchanges—other nations are increasingly looking to the United States and China to come together in partnership to tackle these problems. The complex challenges we face today cannot be solved by any one country, and both the United States and China recognize that global problem solving is made exponentially more difficult without the full and active participation of each other. Thus, the United States “welcomes a strong, prosperous, and successful China that plays a greater role in world affairs,” just as “China welcomes the United States as an Asia-Pacific nation that contributes to peace, stability and prosperity in the region.”
At the same time, our strategic and economic priorities often conflict, straining efforts to broaden the U.S.-China relationship and to work together on the global stage. On the military-to-military relationship, economic rebalancing, and universal human rights, the United States and China must continue to work steadily and steadfastly to identify areas of common interest and to sustain cooperation despite disagreements. The ability to forge forward in a cooperative manner while fully recognizing and addressing differences will be the true test of the maturity of the bilateral relationship. Indeed, finding resolutions to many of today’s pressing global challenges will depend on the ability of the United States and China to demonstrate this maturity.
In light of the shared challenges we face, I find it heartening that the leadership in both of our countries have taken important steps to encourage greater cooperation between the United States and China. I recently hosted the second Dialogue between the Center for American Progress and the China-United States Exchange Foundation, which gave representatives from both our countries the opportunity to discuss shared concerns and outline future joint steps. These regular, high-level dialogues help to build trust and understanding, and can go a long way in making diplomatic exchanges between the United States and China a success. The better we understand one another and the more we address shared concerns together, the better we will be able to advance mutual goals in our evolving world.
John Podesta is the President and CEO of the Center for American Progress.