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Analysis: Sino-US ties defined by understanding
( 2003-10-25 09:38) (China Daily)

The relationship between China and the United States has gradually matured as their areas of common ground have expanded, according to an article in the Beijing Morning Post.

The frequent high-level contacts between the two countries have substantially enhanced mutual trust and pushed forward bilateral relations.

On the eve of the 11th Asia-Pacific Economic Co-operation (APEC) summit early this week in Bangkok, Thailand, President Hu Jintao met US President George W. Bush. The two had an in-depth exchange of views on a series of issues of shared concern.

Consultations are now under way about US Vice-President Dick Cheney's visit to China and Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao's visit to the United States.

They are just a few examples of the recent high-profile contacts between the two sides.

In the first six months of his presidency, Hu Jintao held several phone conversations with Bush. The two heads also met face to face in Evian, France, in June during the G8 Summit.

Through these contacts, the two countries understand each other better and now agree on many issues.

It is normal for differences to exist between China and the United States, just as President Hu Jintao said when meeting with US Senators in China in April.

Nevertheless, the two countries should actively seek to develop common ground from a long-term and strategic perspective, take account of the other's concerns, and appropriately deal with differences between them.

The two countries have consulted, co-ordinated and co-operated in the fields of diplomacy, the military, counter-terrorism, and the nuclear issue on the Korean Peninsula.

The development of bilateral economic relations has been particularly noteworthy. The two countries already carry out regular trade negotiations.

The Sino-US relationship is healthier than ever, according to US Secretary of State Colin Powell.

There are also positive changes in the US position towards China, said the article.

Bush's tougher stance towards China during his early presidency is still remembered by many Chinese.

The Bush administration openly denounced the policy of its predecessor, the Clinton administration, to build a constructive strategic partnership with China. Insisting the two countries are strategic competitors, it disseminated the "China threat" theory and stressed the United States should take measures to contain a rising China.

The September 11 terrorist attacks in 2001 made the Bush administration gradually change its policy towards China in a pragmatic and positive direction.

Bush's two trips to China within a five-month period clearly demonstrate his change of policy, said the article.

Western observers believed the White House's decision to invite then vice-president Hu Jintao to the United States last year reflected this new desire to build friendship and trust with the Chinese leadership.

Since Hu Jintao assumed the presidency, Bush has made a series of goodwill gestures towards China.

When China was plagued by the outbreak of SARS (severe acute respiratory syndrome), Bush called Hu, expressing US willingness to provide any possible assistance to China, praising the Chinese Government's work in the fight against the epidemic.

Bush has also made positive changes in his policy towards the Chinese mainland and Taiwan, according to the article.

He once declared that the United States, given its obligations under the Taiwan Relations Act, would assist Taiwan if the island was attacked.

The president also upgraded US weapons sales to the island.

However, at the G8 summit meeting in Evian, France, in June, Bush explicitly said he would give no support to Taiwan independence.

Flourishing trade and economic ties between the United States and China have also contributed much to the smooth development of bilateral relations, said the article.

The trade volume between China and the United States reached US$97.18 billion in 2002, up 20.8 per cent from the previous year. In the first five months of this year, the volume has topped US$46.42 billion, up 35.4 per cent from the same period last year.

The two countries are likely to maintain strong trade ties given that their economies are strongly complementary. The United States has strong capital and technological advantages, while China boasts enormous market and labour resources.

These economic links contributed to Clinton's decision to offer China most-favoured nation trading status, divorcing it from the issue of human rights, and Bush's more recent approval of Permanent Normal Trade Relations with China.

The two countries, however, are yet to solve some thorny issues, according to the article.

Of those, the Taiwan question is still the biggest, it said.

It is unlikely the United States will forsake Taiwan, although its decision to boost strategic relations with the Chinese mainland reduces the island's influence on decision-making in Washington.

In an annual assessment report on China's military power released by the Pentagon on July 30, the United States once again expressed its concerns about the threat of the mainland's growing military force to the security of Taiwan.

Also, the United States has not completely given up its view of China as a potential enemy to its global strategic interests.

China was listed as one of the targets against which the United States could launch nuclear attacks in its Nuclear Posture Review unveiled earlier in 2002.

Neo-conservative forces who have had growing influence in the Bush administration since the Iraq War may also cause frictions between the two countries.

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