President Xi Jinping's presence at the China-US Strategic and Economic Dialogue and his emphasis on the new type of major-country relationship were symbolic of the strong political will of Beijing; something particularly important now that recent troubles have raised doubts about the prospects of this particular relationship.
What matters at this point is not whether China and the United States can ultimately materialize the envisioned relationship, but whether they are both dedicated to trying to realize it.
Xi conveyed the essential message that at least Beijing is taking it seriously.
The current obstacles and their attendant pessimism did not prevent Xi from highlighting that such an ideal is the goal of the Chinese leadership's persistent interest in anchoring the sometimes volatile bilateral ties.
In contrast to the generally less-than-optimistic perceptions of the current state of affairs, Xi contributed a perspective a lot more conducive to maneuvering the kind of harmony the proposed relationship promises.
Just as Xi said, since the two countries are pursuing a pattern of coexistence that has never been seen before, and has no ready model to follow, so frustrations are inevitable and thus understandable.
Traditional thinking, the ideological legacies of the Cold War in particular, pits the two countries in a zero-sum game of big-power rivalry. But the past 35 years of China-US interaction show the two countries do not have to stand against each other.
More important, win-win scenarios have been abundant when they have joined hands. Relations have matured to such an extent that the common incidents arising from their differences, unpleasant as they are, will be unlikely to rock the foundations of bilateral ties. However, misjudgment of strategic intentions is another thing.
"How China and the United States judge each other's strategic intentions will directly influence what policies the two parties take, and what relationship they formulate," Xi pointed out. One single misjudgment may result in many others, he warned.
The biggest potential threat to relations now lies in the evident gap between their perceptions. In the maritime disputes in the East and South China seas, for instance, Beijing's defensive responses to outsider provocations are being read by Washington as evidence of a disregard for international law. Washington's support for the true troublemakers, on the other hand, has convinced many that it is plotting to contain a rising China.
The gap in their perception is deep and wide. But it must not be left unattended if the two countries want to get along.
(China Daily 07/10/2014 page8)