Sino-US ties evolve with the times: expert

Updated: 2012-02-28 15:53


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CHICAGO - Forty years after then US President Richard Nixon's historic visit to China, the US- China relationship has evolved with the times from professional politics to more multifaceted relations, a US professor told Xinhua in an exclusive interview.

Yang Dali, a Chinese American professor of political science at the University of Chicago and director of the University's Confucius Institute, said that Nixon's 1972 visit to China was truly a "sea change"  in international relations, which ultimately led to the reestablishment of diplomatic relations between the two countries.

However, Yang also noted that the current global environment is an "extremely different world from then," and that US-China relations had consequently grown to become more "multifaceted" and much deeper than Nixon and Chairman Mao had perhaps ever envisioned.

Yang said considerations such as Cold War strategy and geopolitical concerns prompted the United States to reengage China in the 1970s. Since the collapse of the Soviet Union, the international system has been heavily based on multilateralism, rather than the bipolar power politics of the Cold War era.

Such a change in the world power structure has thus led the United States and China to a very different bilateral relationship than that of the 1970s, a relationship that is arguably more complex but also much deeper and more significant, Yang added.

Through trade, investment, educational exchanges and other outlets, the United States and China have dramatically increased their ties to one another in this new globalized world.

Many experts such as Yang believe these cross-cultural exchanges can foster mutual understanding between the two peoples in a way that is as effective as or sometimes even more effective than professional politics.

As for the United States and China, since Nixon's 1972 visit, people-to-people exchanges have increased from virtually zero to tens of thousands, and government officials from both countries have pledged their support for such bilateral experiences.

According to the Institute of International Education's Open Doors report released last November, the United States housed over 150,000 Chinese exchange students over the 2010-2011 academic year, more than students from any other country.

In the meantime, 13,910 US students are studying in China, making China the fifth most popular destination for Americans seeking to study overseas. And according to the Modern Language Association, about 61,000 American students are currently studying Chinese in the United States.

Yang praised such developments, but at the same time said they could potentially bring disagreements as the two countries may have different perspectives on many issues.

"(As opposed to 40 years ago) however, today this is a multifaceted relationship, that means actually we are going to see burgeoning relations but at the same time also conflicts, only because when there are so many interactions there are so many areas where the countries may disagree,"  Yang told Xinhua.

"But at the same time the framework for resolving those conflicts or tensions also exists - so the leaders from both countries meet frequently, they can go to the WTO to resolve trade disputes, they meet through the IMF, the World Bank, various other forums," Yang continued, stressing how communication was key and that the international system was now far more accommodating.

Yang believed that the United States and China share more and more interests and their relationship will likely continue to grow and prosper in the future.

"If you look at the fundamental aspects of the relationship, it rests on a very strong basis, whether it's based on strategic considerations or because of the economic interactions, and I think that's going to continue to provide the kind of support and foundation for continued, sustained relationship between the two countries," Yang noted.