January 24, 2011

Hu's Fruitful Visit Charts New Course for Sino-U.S. Ties

Featuring Abraham M. Denmark

Source: China Daily

President Hu Jintao's visit to the United States has charted a new course defining the nature of Sino-US relations in the coming decade, Chinese officials and experts say.

Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi said at the close of Hu's busy four-day tour on Saturday that the visit was particularly fruitful and has opened a new chapter of cooperation between the two countries.

Noting the deep, complicated changes in the international situation, Yang underscored the importance of Hu's frank and in-depth talks with US President Barack Obama, and he hailed the consensus reached on bilateral relations and a host of major regional and global issues.

Yang touted the joint statement issued during the visit as instrumental to reinforcing strategic trust between the two nations, which has been - and will remain - a key concern for Beijing and Washington.

The joint statement, in which Washington reaffirms its commitment to the one-China principle, reflects both nations' desire to improve understanding and reinforce trust. It outlines a package of exchange measures to help shore up that trust, Yang said.

Yuan Peng, an expert on US studies with the China Institutes of Contemporary International Relations, said the statement defines the nature of the bilateral ties as a "cooperative partnership based on mutual respect and mutual benefit".

The term "cooperative partnership" is a milestone for this summit as "it provides more solid footing for the 'positive, cooperative and comprehensive' consensus on relations reached 14 months ago", Yuan said.

The statement, while echoing that of 2009, addresses in greater depth mutual concerns, such as the welcome by the US of a strong, prosperous and successful China, and Beijing's recognition of Washington as a player in the Asia-Pacific.

Jin Canrong, deputy director of the School of International Studies at Renmin University of China in Beijing, said China has reaffirmed its determination to work cooperatively with the US while reiterating its core interests.

Once there is an upbeat assessment of the bilateral relations, it cannot be long before the two nations map out tangible steps toward cooperation, Jin said.

For instance, China and the US have vowed to pay closer attention to Pyongyang and Teheran's nuclear programs, Jin said.

Additionally, more than 10 deals have been signed covering trade, investment, technology, energy, the environment, and other areas, showing the state visit's achievement in increasing economic ties.

Yang said the China-US partnership could not be built up without the strong support of mutually beneficial economic cooperation.

As neither the exchange rate of the yuan nor Washington's stimulus plans were explicitly highlighted in the talks, Jin said he believes both nations steered clear of irritating one another to achieve pragmatic economic reciprocity.

While some issues such as arms sales to Taiwan and a disparity on human rights remain unresolved, analysts said the visit has ushered in an era where both nations treat each other with sincerity and equality.

To move beyond tensions, Yang said, people-to-people exchanges are the basis and impetus of the development of ties between different countries, adding that sound China-US relations could not be guaranteed without the two peoples' mutual understanding and support.

"It is safe to say from the joint statement that both countries have agreed to take concrete steps to further people-to-people exchanges," Jin said.

This will give new momentum to Sino-US ties in the long run, said Yuan, since political trust and public diplomacy are mutually beneficial.

US analysts, some of whom had pinned low expectations on Hu's state visit, said the visit proved more constructive and encouraging than they thought.

Cheng Li, director of research of John L. Thornton China Center at the Brookings Institution, said the visit was "a great success" because the leaders sent clear messages to the people of both countries and the world that China and the US will not engage in a new cold war.

"Instead, two presidents agree that they can, should and must pursue a positive, cooperative and comprehensive relationship," Li said.

Charles Freeman, Freeman chair in China Studies at the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS), said the visit was "highly successful, particularly given relatively low expectations".

"The statement on the DPRK was stronger than many expected, and the comments about the US role in the Asia-Pacific were very helpful," he said.

Derek Scissors, economist at the Heritage Foundation, said the visit achieved some progress on the economic issues, such as Chinese currency reform and Chinese investment in the US.

"Thankfully, there was less discussion of the exchange rate. The US has overemphasized this issue in the past and we can hope this is progress to a more balanced approach," he said.

"I believe progress was made on Chinese investment in the US. The very fact that President Obama publicly spoke of it so highly will help in the American political process, which has not been transparent or fair to Chinese investors up to now."

On regional security issues on the Korean Peninsula and US' role in the Asia-Pacific region, security experts noticed China has made a clearer stance.

Bonnie Glaser, senior fellow of the Freeman Chair in China Studies at CSIS, said it is "useful" that China has, in the latest joint statement, reiterated its November 2009 stance of the US playing a constructive role in the region.

"As for North Korea, China's willingness to refer specifically to the uranium enrichment program in the joint statement is important ... China's encouragement of North-South dialogue and eased tensions is also helpful," she said.

Abraham Denmark, Asia-Pacific security expert at the Center for a New American Security (CNAS), said the Hu-Obama summit produced important statements on cooperation on regional security issues but these need to be translated into actions.

"The stronger stance on North Korea that China has committed itself to is very welcome, and the United States will be watching China very closely to see if those statements are translated into stronger actions by China," he said.

"China's recognition of America's constructive role in the region was very welcome and a positive sign that China recognizes that the region is big enough for China and the United States, and that our mutual presence in the region is not a zero-sum competition."


 

  • Abraham M. Denmark