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Change drives China-US talks

By Dan Steinbock | China Daily | Updated: 2013-07-17 09:54

The fifth US-China Strategic & Economic Dialogue, held in Washington last week, provided an opportunity for new senior policy teams on both sides to take measure of each other and work on key bilateral, regional and global issues.

Although many jaded US political observers say the S&ED has become unwieldy and excessively process-oriented, the reality is that things are changing. The operating environment of the US-China talks is shifting toward multipolarity - as proven by a slate of proposed regional trade deals and the cybersecurity debate.

US-China dialogue rests on strategic and economic tracks. The former covers vital security issues, such as Chinese military modernization, maritime disputes in Asia, US strategic pivot to Asia, bilateral military-to-military relationship, Iran's nuclear program and the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula. It also includes cross-Straits relations and US arms sales to Taiwan.

In cybersecurity, former National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden's expos of the US surveillance program created a storm in both countries, as well as the rest of the world, and severely harmed US credibility. In China, many political analysts say that, after the popularity of the Barack Obama administration began to fall, it became more vocal in alleging that China had violated cybersecurity.

Change drives China-US talks

Now China, along with other BRICS member states and Germany, accuses the US and US-based interests of violating cybersecurity. It also accuses the NSA of having cozy relationships with the largest US-based Internet giants, from Google to Microsoft, saying they should be commercial companies rather than extensions of the government's intelligence wing.

Not surprisingly, the inaugural session of the highly anticipated US-China bilateral working group on cybersecurity preceded the S&ED meeting, enabling both sides to insulate the Strategic and Economic Dialogue from the cybersecurity flames.

In the ultimate analysis, though, cybersecurity is a global challenge and requires multipolar cooperation.

The S&ED focused on economic issues, including China's reforms, bilateral trade deficit, innovation policies and intellectual property rights, the US' quantitative easing (QE) and China's currency policy, US Treasuries held by China and global trade issues.

The Bilateral Investment Treaty talks rep

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