Dialogue Overcoming Disputes
China and the United States pursue a stable and vigorous relationship at the Strategic and Economic Dialogue
Where is the China-U.S. relationship heading? It's a big question not only for the two countries, but also in terms of the whole global situation as a whole. So far, it appears they are on course to make the wise decision to continue expanding cooperation.
The fifth round of the China-U.S. Strategic and Economic Dialogue (S&ED) was held on July 10-11 in Washington, D.C. Hundreds of leading officials from more than 20 ministries and departments of both countries discussed greater cooperation on a wide range of topics covering political, security, economic and financial issues during the two-day event.
This year's S&ED featured new faces since both countries organized new administrations. Acting as special representatives of Chinese President Xi Jinping, Chinese Vice Premier Wang Yang and State Councilor Yang Jiechi co-chaired the dialogue with U.S. President Barack Obama's special representatives Secretary of State John Kerry and Treasury Secretary Jacob Lew.
As U.S. and Chinese economies become increasingly interconnected, dialogue is better than confrontation and is important for both countries, Wang said on July 10. Good cooperation between China and the United States "can serve as an anchor for world peace and stability and an engine for prosperity and development," he said. "Our job is to turn the agreement between the two presidents into tangible outcomes and flesh out this new model of major country relationship so as to bring benefits to the people of the two countries and around the world."
"The dynamic that emerges between our nations will affect not just our peoples but, quite frankly, have a significant impact on the entire world," U.S. Vice President Joe Biden said. "Our relationship is and will continue to be a mix of competition and cooperation. And competition can be good for both of us and cooperation is essential."
"Generally speaking, this year's S&ED showed more continuity than changes. This is good because the most important aspect of the bilateral relationship is steady development," Yu Wanli, an expert on China-U.S. relations at the School of International Studies, Peking University, stressed to Beijing Review. He pointed out that this was the first S&ED after Xi's presidency and Obama's second term started, and both sides cherished this new opportunity of expanding cooperation in a new era. One month ago, the two presidents held an informal but important meeting in California, and reached common understandings. The S&ED implemented their agreements through practical cooperation to build up a new type of relationship between the two powers, said Yu.
Tao Wenzhao, a researcher on American studies with the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, echoed Yu's view. He said the S&ED sought to plot a workable roadmap of developing their relations, adding that China and the United States have a strategic opportunity to enhance their relationship.
Cyber security, climate change and the Korean Peninsula issue were the three important focuses of the strategic dialogue this year. Yu believed these tough issues are both challenges and opportunities of China-U.S. relations.
Recently, former U.S. National Security Agency employee Edward Snowden revealed that the United States has maintained monitoring over countries including its allies and China. Previously, Washington had accused Chinese hackers of attacking U.S. networks.
"The Snowden event could be the catalyst for promoting bilateral cooperation in the cyber security area," said Yu. "The two countries are now occupying the same moral ground. Their cooperation will be more rational and placid." He stressed that there are no international rules or regulations governing cyber security, so if China and the United States successfully conduct cooperation in this field, they will become two of the most important rule-makers of the cyber world.
During the S&ED, China and the United States expanded their EcoPartnership program aimed at reducing greenhouse gas emissions, improving energy efficiency and creating jobs. Under the new agreements, another six pairs of Chinese and American institutes will join the original group of 18 partnerships.
Addressing cooperation on the Korean Peninsula situation, Yu noted that the two powers have been cooperating "very well" on the issue. "Currently, their common task is to prompt North Korea to return to the six-party talks negotiation framework, which has proven to be the only effective path to solving the issue," said Yu.
Sun Zhe, a professor of international relations with Tsinghua University, said that, strategically, China and the United States have reached common understandings on the Korean Peninsula issue, especially on the denuclearization of the peninsula. But he pointed out that China must stick to two principles: First, the China-North Korea friendship should not be sabotaged; second, China must insist on independent diplomacy instead of making decisions under U.S. pressure.
Closer economic bond
The economic track of this year's S&ED featured three topics: enlarging trade and investment cooperation, promoting sustainable and balanced development, and stabilizing and reforming the financial market. Chinese observers believed closer economic cooperation will strengthen bilateral relations and enhance mutual trust during the establishment of the new-type relationship between the two big powers.
During the talks, the two countries agreed to start substantive discussions on the China-
U.S. Bilateral Investment Treaty as soon as possible after nine rounds of preliminary negotiations.
Chen Fengying, an expert on international economic studies with the China Institutes of Contemporary International Relations, believed investment is the focus of current bilateral economic cooperation. China and the United States both feel that it is harder to invest in the other country and that's why the two need to make a breakthrough on investment protection, she said.
Lu Feng, a professor at Peking University, noted that the two countries are mutually complementary in terms of investment. Compared with to the giant bilateral trade volume, their investment volume is too small to fit the two powers' economic scales, said Lu, stressing enlarging two-way investment will help with their economic structure adjustments.
"There are three supporting pillars of China-U.S. relations: political mutual trust, trade and economic cooperation, and cultural communication. Trade and economic cooperation have been acting as the stabilizer of bilateral relations," said Yu from Peking University. He said the world is under significant changes, while positive and negative elements coexist. During Obama's first term, the Obama administration was overly concerned about military security when implementing a "pivot to Asia" policy, and pressed China's security space in the region, which caused tensions in the bilateral relationship. Washington has realized its mistake and begun focusing on maintaining economic pressure in the region by promoting the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), said Yu.
Yu believed that China should actively participate in TPP negotiations. The U.S. side has listed higher standards on trade conditions like environmental protection, wages and government subsidies. "Undoubtedly, these trade conditions are targeted at China. But we must admit that China's economic reform needs an external driving force," said Yu.
Unlike TPP negotiations, which are multilateral, investment negotiations between China and the United States will be easier to reach consensus, and will help solve other problems between the two sides, like security and mutual trust, Yu said. "Once an agreement on investment is reached, it will be a landmark in bilateral trade and economic cooperation," he added.
"There are many effective channels supporting the establishment of a new-type relationship between the two powers. Thus far, the S&ED is still one of the most important communication mechanisms," Yu said. "What we need is to strengthen bilateral communication at both high-ranking and people-to-people levels."
(With reporting by Huang Wei in Washington, D.C.)