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Strong Steps toward Building a Cooperative China-US Partnership

Feb 12 , 2011
  • Tao Wenzhao

    Researcher, Chinese Academy of Social Sciences

China’s President Hu Jintao has just completed his historic state visit to the United States, resulting in a successful  summit  in which the two leaders redefined  bilateral relations. The visit greatly enhanced  the mutual understanding between the two countries on  many issues and further expanded the scope of their cooperation.The China-US Joint Statement will help steer the relationship in  the right direction into the future.

The two leaders are committed to building a cooperative partnership based on mutual respect and mutual benefit in order to promote the common interests of both countries and to address the 21st century’s opportunities and challenges. This new definition sets the goal and direction of  the future relationship . Its dual effect reflects both the basic nature of China-US dealings and also satisfies  the needs of the nervous international political and economic environments.

China-US relations have, on the whole, been moving forward in spite of the ups and downs of many differences and troubles since normalization. As President Hu pointed out at the banquet hosted by American friendly organizations “China and the United States have never had such extensive common interests and shouldered such great common responsibilities.” In the past 32years the two counties have achieved outcomes of miraculous proportions. These  two big nations with different social systems and ideologies – one the established superpower, the other a rapidly rising power -  have  not only co-existed peacefully, but also have both benefited across a wide range of sectors from their mutual dealings . This is despite many people in the United States and in other countries having serious doubts about the relationship.  Naturally, China-US relations need careful cultivation and protection, and the Joint Statement actually stipulates what they should do do and how to realize the win-win outcomes of the cooperative partnership. So the Joint Statement actually is an action program of future China-US relations.

The collaboration is  critically important not only to the two countries, but also to the international community. In the new era there are many more  regional and global issues besetting China-US relations, and their bilateral agreement has  increasing global ramifications. Neither country  embraces the notion of them being treated as an exclusive G2 force. But it is a fact today that without cooperation between China and the US few important international issues can be solved. Consequently, to establish a cooperative partnership is  an international responsibility of both.

The economic relationship between the two countries is the most tangible and important  example of this win-win relationship. In the past their economic and trade relations, although also negatively influenced and buffeted by disturbances in bilateral relations, have continued to prosper and grow  and been an  important stabilizing role in bilateral dealings. The economic interests of the two are now so deeply entwined that neither  can afford to abandon the other. The two leaders have recognized the vital importance of their trade links  and decided to expand their comprehensive and mutually beneficial economic partnership. A number of economic issues were raised in the Joint Statement and the solutions were also outlined. Here the two sides need to close the gaps and further develop stronger economic links China’s requests are clear: the US needs to take practical measures to recognize China’s market economy status and to relax strict controls over high tech exports in order to balance bilateral trade.

The Joint Statement doesn’t shy from acknowledging the sizeable  differences between the two countries and  they were commendably quite frank about them. The two leaders made it very clear that complementary interests between the countries are much larger than their conflicting interests. And how to deal with these differences is also crucial for successful bilateral relations. In the early 1990s the US was prone to putting pressure on China when the two had differences over human rights, a strategy that, of course, did not work. Now they have decided to  deal with differences in the spirit of their own equality and with mutual respect. And the differences must be kept under control rather than to be let spiral  out of control.

There were many conflicts in China-US relations last year but they were generally controllable and did not harm the greater relationship as seriously as some incidents did in the 1990s . After thirty-plus years, both have accumulated much diplomatic skill in  crises management. Of the  more than 60 trade and political mechanisms and platforms built between them over the years, the most important is their strategic and economic dialogue. These mechanisms are useful tools for opening consultation and communication, to deal with differences and overcome difficulties and challenges. They will be further strengthened in the days to come.

The two leaders paid much attention to expanding people-to- people ties.  China-US relations are not just links between two governments, but also between two societies. The collaboration also must be adopted by the  people of the two countries. Here everybody can do something to improve China-US relations.

Tao Wenzhao  is senior research fellow of Institute of American Studies, Chinese Academy of Social Sciences

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