Pragmatic US-China relation tone set
(China Daily)
Updated: 2009-06-12 08:00

A new “pragmatic” tone is advancing the relationship between the US and China, promising a possible win-win situation for the countries, said John Milligan-Whyte, chairman of a prominent US think-tank during an interview with China Daily.

“Conventional American foreign policy and defense strategy is in crisis and if the US reiterates the same mindset and strategies, it will not be able to solve the problems America has,” said Milligan-Whyte, head of the Center for America China Partnership, the first US think-tank to combine US and Chinese perspectives.

He said there needs to be, and is, “a major difference” in US foreign policy, stressing that since President Barack Obama took office this year, the tone of the US-China partnership has been “pragmatic”.

“The US has produced a leader of extraordinary ability, although Obama is going to do things which are extremely difficult. He will work out what needs to be done,” he said.

Referring to the many high-level exchanges between the countries recently, Milligan-Whyte said they are “unseen before” and are “sending a positive signal” that the two countries are focused on common goals such as “weathering the global financial crisis and addressing climate change”.

He noted Obama met his Chinese counterpart, Hu Jintao, on the sidelines of the G20 summit in London in April, and US State Secretary Hillary Clinton was in China in February to promote dialogue on the financial crisis, climate change and energy. US Speaker of the House of Representatives Nancy Pelosi visited to talk about green issues, and US Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner last week visited to discuss economic ones.

“I interpret President Obama as sending a signal that he would emphasize pragmatic issues, like the financial crisis and climate change and, to a certain degree, show respect to China’s rights and self-determination (on Tibet and human rights issues),” he said.

“These US high-level visits are designed to present a friendly America but the mindset behind American thinking has not yet changed,” Milligan-Whyte said, adding that some senior US officials are inconsistent in speeches made in different arenas.

On May 24, Obama nominated Republican Jon Huntsman as ambassador to China, stating that he was “launching a new era of partnership”.

“We are very encouraged that Jon Huntsman, with a full knowledge of China for his background, was nominated … he is consistent with the Obama administration’s pragmatism and will understand how to achieve a partnership with China in the new era in an unconventional approach,” Milligan-Whyte said.

“He is capable of implementing Obama’s new strategic partnership with China in the new era as he knows well from both ideologies, what direction US-China relations should go,” added Dai Min, president of the US think-tank.

(Script by Zhang Xin, video by Xu Yang)