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Tillerson's words bode well for summit: experts

By Zhao Huanxin in Washington (China Daily USA) Updated: 2017-03-22 11:07

US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson's latest visit to Beijing, with his positive comments on US-China relations, has significantly reduced the uncertainties in bilateral relationship between the two countries and bodes well for the upcoming presidential summit, analysts said.

In his maiden trip to Beijing last weekend, Tillerson said that the US-China relationship had been "a very positive relationship built on non-conflict, non-confrontation, mutual respect and win-win cooperation", and that it is important for the leaders of the two countries to engage in further talks and develop an understanding to guide the relationship for the next half-century.

Acting State Department spokesman Mark Toner said Tillerson was "aware of his word choice" when he twice used that language that was identical to Chinese leaders on the US-China relationship.

"I think the message he is sending or he tried to send in his visit to Beijing writ large was that we want a cooperative, productive, forward-looking relationship with China," he told a news briefing on Monday.

Toner said that dealing with the challenges on the Korean Peninsula is part of an ongoing conversation.

"We're going to see that when President Xi (Jinping) comes to the United States for his visit. So part of this is laying the groundwork for that, so that's a productive, forward-looking, results-oriented visit," he said.

Non-conflict, non-confrontation, mutual respect and win-win cooperation has long been the core features of developing a new model of major power relations proposed by China, noted Tao Wenzhao, a senior researcher of US studies at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences.

"President Xi elaborated the key features in his meeting with President Barack Obama in Annenberg, Sunnylands in 2013," Tao said on Tuesday, adding that while Obama was somehow short of endorsing "mutual respect", Tillerson has taken a step forward.

"I believe that with all the positive signals given out at Tillerson's visit, the uncertainties haunting the Sino-US relationship would be significantly reduced in the sensitive transitional period in the new administration," Tao said.

"This will help make the bilateral relations more predictable, and pave the way for the two countries to lay out a general direction, a framework, to steer the relations," he said, adding that a favorable atmosphere has thus been created for the Xi-Trump summit.

While what Tillerson said regarding the bilateral relations was "positive", it is way too

early to conclude that the US had accepted the proposal of forging a "new model of major power relations", said Shi Yinhong, director of the Center of US Studies at Renmin University of China.

In issues ranging from trade, South China Sea to Korean Peninsula, the world's two largest economies each have divergent core interests and major concerns, and either side seems likely to make big concessions - easily, according to Shi.

"Tillerson's visit and the upcoming presidential summit will help improve China-US relations, but we must be clear-headed for the ups and downs in such relationship, and be prepared for the complexity," he said.

Shi also said that even as the new administration has settled down, Washington and Beijing would continue to test each other.

But overall, the China-US relationship would continue to forge ahead, both Tao and Shi said.

Nicholas Hope, a China specialist at the Stanford Center for International Development, earlier said he would look to see a rather cautious approach to China-US relations as too little time has passed to reveal how the Trump administration will cooperate with China, or not.

"Although I anticipate that there will be competition between the two countries in many areas, it is imperative that cooperation prevails when it comes to the vital issues of the day, which include dealing with climate change, assuring that nuclear weapons are never used, and combating terrorism and all forms of conflict," he said.

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