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China visit to open new front for Sino-US ties
Updated: 2005-07-19 14:17

The United States will open a new diplomatic front with China in the coming two-day visit of a US delegation next month in Beijing, recognizing China as its important partner and seeking to establish closer ties from all aspects, reported the Los Angeles Times on Monday.

The United States delegation, led by Deputy Secretary of State Robert B. Zoellick, will meet the Chinese officials next month. The new dialogue will focus on building a closer tie with the rising China in a larger framework instead of just focusing on specific economic, political and security issues. It has been seen as the Washington's recognition of China's growing importance.

"We want to try to get people to look across issues and see their interrelations - whether its foreign and security policy or economic, trade, finance or energy," Deputy Secretary of State Robert B. Zoellick told the Los Angeles Times.

Senior State Department officials also recognized Sino-U.S. tie as one of the Washington's most challenging international relationships. They said they hoped the new dialogue would develop into a deeper level of engagement with more conversation than negotiation to build trust and offer a chance to study the broader implications of specific issues.

The new conversation implied that the U.S realized the need for a better relationship with China, which grew rapidly especially in the past four years, after the Sept. 11 attack and the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq.

However, the picture is totally different in Congress. China's expanding economic and military power, growing trade surplus with the U.S trigger an anti-China sentiment among the congressmen. Some lawmakers think that instead of building a closer tie, the U.S. should start to confront China

"The general feeling is we're headed into a rough patch," said Nancy Bernkopf Tucker, a China scholar at Georgetown University.

Zoellick, who was working as the U.S. trade representative during President Bush's first term, will lead the delegation visit Beijing and meet the China's delegation represented by Vice Foreign Minister Dai Bingguo next month. The talk is expected to focus on establishing a new diplomatic process.

Some foreign affairs specialists believed that the Sino-China relationship was more critical in the long run than Middle East despite its immediate danger of terrorism. It is because few events carry more danger to an existing world order than the emergence of a major new power, as history proved with the rise of Germany and Japan in the last century.

"There's no reason to believe we are any smarter today than the policymakers who 'mismanaged' the rise of Germany and Japan," former State Department official and political commentator Robert Kagan wrote in a recent article in the Washington Post regarding the challenge of China's emergence.

Some experts outside the administration described the new talk as a positive step.

"What the administration is doing is critically necessary," said Rep. Robert Wexler, a member of the House International Relations Committee, who recently visited China. "China will rise with or without the U.S., so the real question is if the U.S. can also prosper and if it can play a constructive role in creating an environment where China can cooperate on common interests."

Some U.S.-China specialists interpreted the broad perspective of the new conversation as a chance for the U.S. to show a receptive stance to China's rising power.

"Our goal is to see the rise of a China that is a positive force in international politics," said Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice last week in Beijing.

Despite of all these positive gesture toward China, the emotion toward Beijing has been complicated and even contradictory.

On one hand, China has been helping to lower the U.S. budget deficit by buying their treasury bills and China's cheap imported goods are welcomed by many American. On the other hand, the ever-expanding military buildup and global reach has upset Defense Department and the CIA, who see these as most serious potential threats to the U.S.' security.

"You talk to the Pentagon and the Treasury about China, and it's like they have two different countries in mind," said Pei Minxin, an expert on the Sino-U.S. relationship at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace in Washington.
And consistency is always absent in the relationship.

"This administration must learn to send an unambiguous signal to China," he said.

The Sino-US relationship has been changing over the years from "strategic partner" during Clinton's administration to "strategic competitor" in Bush's term. Bush later declared the relationship too complicated for a shorthand label, a stance still being used by the administration.

Some official showed their positive stance toward China. Christopher Hill, the assistant secretary of State for East Asian and Pacific affairs, welcomed the rise of a confident, peaceful and prosperous China while senior State Department Asia specialist Evans J.R. Revere said the U.S had never set policy to restrict or contain China.

Economically, the tension between the two is continuous. Bills restricting China trade in the U.S. is still on going. A punitive 27.5 percent tariffs is going to impose on Beijing if China does not immediately revaluate Chinese yuan, claiming the existing trade as unfair. Last month, the China National Offshore Oil Co.'s announced $18.5-billion takeover bid for California-based Unocal, an act viewed as a threat to the United States' national security further tightening the tensions between the two powers.

Some viewed China as serious danger to the U.S.

"It's part of a long-term strategy for domination," said a Republican congressman Dana Rohrabacher.

Two weeks earlier, the California lawmaker opposed U.S. government support for American companies who were part of a Westinghouse consortium bidding to build nuclear power plants in China.

"The greatest threat to our freedom, the greatest threat to America's prosperity, is not radical Islam," he said, but "a China that is emerging on the scene that is belligerent to everything we stand for as a people."

Others think the discussion has gone too far.

"There's too much hysterics and too little logic in the current debate," Wexler said. "The economic future of China is now tied to that of the United States. In this context, both sides need to be mature and prudent."

Wexler believed that imposing punitive measure on China would hurt the U.S. more than China. Many economists have already showed that imposing punitive tariffs on China's imports would only push up the price of consumer goods in the U.S. without bring any jobs back.

Derek Mitchell, a former Defense Department East Asia specialist now at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington, suggested the importance of building stronger mutual confidence in the aspects of security, energy, infectious diseases, terrorism, etc.

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