Gary Locke, the US ambassador to China, has spoken optimistically about deepening ties between the two countries and insisted that despite their recent leadership transitions, there must be continuity in bilateral relations.
Speaking at a forum sponsored by the Asia Society in New York on Monday, Locke told his audience: "For quite some time, the leaders of both countries have been committed to greater engagement with each other.
"They are really working very hard, developing a constructive, mutually beneficial relationship, one with cooperation.
"Our economies are so intertwined. The Chinese leaders know that, and American leaders know that, so we have to figure out how we get along, not because of our own self interests, but because the history of the Asia-Pacific region will be written by the US and China."
The former US commerce secretary and governor of Washington state, who assumed his current post 16 months ago, was speaking at a sold-out event in which he discussed the recent history of US-China ties with Orville Schell, director of the Asia Society's Center on US-China Relations.
The event was a precursor to the arrival of Vice-Premier Wang Qishan, who was due in Washington on Wednesday to open the 23rd session of the China-US Joint Commission on Commerce and Trade.
China is the second-largest export destination for the US and its top agricultural export destination.
US agricultural exports to China increased 42 percent over the last year. Exports of all goods and services have soared 50 percent over the last two years, doubling the increase in US exports to the rest of the world.
Figures show that a million US jobs now depend on goods and services exported to China, and millions of jobs in China depend on goods and services exported in the other direction.
Locke said many of the world's problems will only be solved by cooperation between the US and China.
"The entire world is looking for leadership from both China and the US, so we've got to get this relationship right," he added. "We are off to a good start."
Despite US President Barack Obama's administration bringing a record number of WTO cases against China, Locke said this does not mean the US won't cooperate with China.
"We have had trade disputes with Canada and France," he added, emphasizing that Americans should welcome Chinese businesses that want to invest in the US, much as Japan and South Korea have done as their economies industrialized.
He noted that anti-Chinese statements made in recent months by members of Congress do not reflect the views of the Obama administration — but he did not say whether he was referring to the House Intelligence Committee report two months ago, which described Chinese telecom companies Huawei Technologies and ZTE Corp as posing national security concerns to the US.
Locke said that only around a hundred of the thousands of foreign direct investments made in the US each year are reviewed for national security reasons, and that only six or seven of those had involved Chinese firms.
"The vast majority of these investments are not problematic, and they are very much welcomed," he said.
He praised Chinese investments, in particular by Tianjin Pipe Co in Texas and Wanxiang Group Corp in the Detroit area, for creating thousands of jobs.
Orville Schell, the Arthus Ross director of the Center on US-China Relations at the society, based in New York, later said the US government is not treating Chinese companies in an unfair and discriminatory way, but that some American congressional figures are prejudiced.
"They do create a political problem which makes it very difficult for Chinese firms to either feel welcome or continue to invest in America," he said.
"It's fully in US interests not just to welcome Chinese investment, but to court and encourage Chinese investment in the US," said Schell, whose team has produced special reports on the benefits of Chinese investment in the US, in particular in the state of California.
Schell said he believes the Obama administration would rather solve trade issues through the annual US-China Strategic and Economic Dialogue.
But he also said the Chinese government should not view trade disputes as anti-China gestures.