US leaders get to know China better

By Wang Zhenhua and Qin Jize (China Daily)
Updated: 2007-01-04 07:15

There is an old Chinese proverb about some blind men and an elephant.

Each of them touches a different part of the animal and identifies it differently. The man who feels the tail describes it as a rope, the one who touches its side says it's like a wall, the leg appears like a tree to the third and the ear is a fan to the fourth, and so on. Each is partly right and partly wrong. But none "sees" the elephant as a whole.

Members of the United States Congress seem to know the proverb pretty well and sought to "see the whole elephant" which is the diverse dimensions of China's rapid development such as trade, security and human rights.

It is the first congressional delegation to visit China after the Democrats regained control of both the houses of the US Congress. They were on a four-day goodwill visit around the New Year.

Observers say the US Congress has been widening its knowledge to analyze China, a growing stakeholder in the international market. The reason for that is the Congress has to work with the US president to decide how to respond to the world's largest developing country.

Headed by Roscoe Bartlett, an 81-year-old Republican from Maryland, the 22-member delegation included nine congressmen. They visited Beijing and Shanghai from December 30 to January 2, and met their counterparts from the National People's Congress and the National Development and Reform Commission (NDRC), China's major economic planning body.

The purpose of their visit was to discuss energy, security and issues of mutual interest, and to extend the hand of friendship. The exchange was on legislator to legislator level.

"We think that our relationship with China is more important than celebrating (the New Year) with our families and friends back home, so we are here," Bartlett said.

The Sino-US relationship has grown fast, creating in its wake complexities as seen in a number of issues the two countries are working together.

Pelosi 'not a concern'

After Nancy Pelosi became the speaker-elect of the House of Representatives last November, her record of criticizing China's human rights record and her opposition to normal trade relations with China in the 1990s sparked speculation that her prejudice against the country might harm healthy bilateral ties.

But the visiting congressmen, under Democratic leadership, said economic issues were likely to replace security concerns as the focus on China.

"Under the Republicans probably the biggest concern over China was security. Now since we are switching to Democratic control, more emphasis might be paid to economic issues," said Representative Mark Kirk of Illinois, who is also the co-chair of the China-US Working Group under the House.

Sun Zhe, a senior researcher with Center of America Studies in Fudan University, said Pelosi's policy would not hinder bilateral ties because she was fully aware of the importance of stable Sino-US ties, which was in the fundamental interest of the American people.

(China Daily 01/04/2007 page2)

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