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Experts say engagement will lead to more stability in Sino-US ties

By ZHAO HUANXIN,YIFAN XU and XU WEI in Beijing | CHINA DAILY | Updated: 2021-11-18 07:36
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President Xi Jinping in Beijing meets with US President Joe Biden via video link on Tuesday. President Xi attaches great importance to the China-US relationship and has been consistently pushing for its sound and steady development. [Photo/Xinhua]

The unfolding interaction between the Chinese and US heads of state will lend stability to bilateral relations and set in motion more intense engagement between the two countries, officials and experts said.

The videoconference between Chinese President Xi Jinping and US President Joe Biden on Tuesday was a "more intense, engaged session" and different from their phone calls, said Jake Sullivan, US national security adviser. The meeting underscored the guidance of the leaders in charting the course for the development of China-US relations.

"There is no substitute for direct leader-to-leader engagement to prevent miscommunication about our goals and motives or policies, and, of course, to give direction to our respective governments," Sullivan said at a webinar hosted by the Brookings Institution, a Washington think tank, on Tuesday.

The interaction will lead to senior figures on both sides being tasked with finding practical solutions to issues to reduce the possibility of friction and conflict, he said. "You will see at multiple levels an intensification of the engagement to ensure that there are guardrails around this competition so that it doesn't veer off into conflict," he said.

Zhao Lijian, a spokesman for China's Foreign Ministry, said both Xi and Biden believed that the meeting was candid, constructive, substantive and productive, and will help increase mutual understanding, add to the positive expectations of the international community for the relationship, and send a powerful message to the two countries and the world.

The two sides agreed to maintain close communication in different forms and steer China-US relations back on the right track of sound and steady development, for the good of people in both countries and globally, he said.

Ryan Hass, a senior fellow of foreign policy at the John L. Thornton China Center at the Brookings Institution, said the virtual meeting gave more stability and restored functionality to the US-China relationship, which was "effectively dysfunctional" when Biden took office in January.

At the webinar, Hass said in the history of US-China relations, "whenever the gap and expectations are widest, the room for turbulence is greatest, and when the gap and expectations narrow, there is usually more stability in the relationship.

"I think that we are making strides between the United States and China in our ability to close this gap and expectations," Hass said. "I expect that we will continue to see sort of the pattern that we saw in the run-up to this meeting play out going forward." The pattern is that the two leaders meet, identify key priorities, designate officials to follow up on those priorities and then they meet again to push things forward, he said.

Li Cheng, the director of the John L. Thornton China Center, said that the meeting was a "commendable success" for both sides under very difficult circumstances.

There has been good progress already in some areas, including visas for journalists. He was referring to reports that the two countries have reached a consensus to facilitate the work of journalists in each other's country by easing visa arrangement.

"There will also be some new positive changes in the economic and trade spheres between the two countries, and it will be a step-by-step process," Li told China Daily, adding that the two sides have had some low-key cooperation recently, such as China buying natural gas from the US.

"It is hazardous if the US-China relationship falls vertically, and this summit has played a role in preventing such a vertical fall," Li said.

Ruan Zongze, executive vice-president of the China Institute of International Studies, said China should take the initiative in writing the new narrative in Sino-US relations.

He said regarding China-US relations that the ties should be a relationship of equality, mutual benefit and respect.

The US-China Business Council said on Tuesday that close and regular contact between leaders and senior officials of the two countries is needed to successfully navigate strategic risks and intense competition, lower the temperature of the relationship, and constructively address myriad issues of shared interest with global implications.

"Given that US-China economic and trade ties have been a ballast of the relationship and can help manage strategic risks, we hope separate meetings will be scheduled soon to discuss economic and trade issues with China," said Craig Allen, president of USCBC.

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