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Commentary: Strengthening Sino-US relations
( 2003-11-27 10:53) (China Daily)

It is risky to forecast trends in the Sino-US relationship, one of the world's most influential yet volatile state-to-state ties, due to its complexity.

Hu Jintao is seen in this file photo shaking hands with visiting US President George W. Bush at Tsinghua University Feb 23, 2002. Hu was vice-president of China then. [Xinhua/file]
Veteran diplomats from both sides have sent a message that relations between the world's most powerful country and the most populous country are at an all-time high.

These words struck a chord among experts and scholars in world affairs at an international symposium on Sino-US-European relations co-hosted by the China Institute for International Strategic Studies (CIISS) and the Hotung Institute For International Relations in Beijing from November 18-20.

Dr Henry A. Kissinger, former US national security advisor and secretary of state, once said the power of politics is to transfer divergence into consensus.

The fight against terrorism mirrors that convergence of interests between China and the United States and can serve as a catalyst for a strengthened rapport.

Experts share the opinion that after experiencing dramatic fluctuations in 2001, bilateral ties are now back on a healthy track and have maintained sound momentum.

The two sides reached a consensus on establishing a constructive and co-operative relationship during the first meeting between President Jiang Zemin and US President George W. Bush in Shanghai in October 2001, pointing Sino-US relations in the right direction at a crucial time and paving the way for their further development.

The past two years witnessed frequent high level contacts and strategic dialogue between the two sides.

In the year since China's new leadership took office, the leaders of both sides have met twice.

President Hu Jintao, in his first overseas state visit since assuming the presidency in March, met US President Bush in the French resort of Evian in June. The two presidents held another meeting last month at the summit of the Asia-Pacific Economic Co-operation (APEC) in Bangkok, Thailand, and reached consensus on promoting the all-round development of a constructive and co-operative relationship.

Premier Wen Jiabao is scheduled to pay an official visit to the United States on December 7. This will be the first visit of China's new premier to Washington.

Many believe that through in-depth talks on bilateral relations and on major international and regional issues of common concern, Premier Wen's visit will further mutual understanding and trust between the two countries and inject new vigour into bilateral ties.

The two nations remain different in many ways but never before have they been so closely bound together.

Exchanges between the two armed forces have steadily picked up in the past two years from their lowest ebb after the "aircraft collision incident."

General Cao Gangchuan, vice-chairman of the Central Military Commission and defence minister concluded his official visit to the United States last month.

In addition, a new round of high level defence consultations between the two countries will be carried out in the near future, according to General Xiong Guangkai, the deputy chief of the General Staff of the Chinese People's Liberation Army and president of the CIISS.

What truly matters now for China and the United States is a shared political will to anchor bilateral relations.

Within the complicated and fast-changing international situation, the two sides are enjoying ever expanding room for co-operation.

As major trading partners, the two are tightly interwoven in an increasingly globalized economy. Economic interests are the driving force in bilateral relations and a vital element that both sides have to take into consideration when handling bilateral issues.

Moreover, the two nations, both permanent members of the United Nations Security Council, have to co-operate beyond the economic sphere. Their bilateral rapport is sure to cast great influence on peace and stability in the Asia-Pacific region and throughout the world.

The Chinese Government has always attached great importance to developing Sino-US ties and has viewed it from a strategic perspective.

China has reiterated on many occasions that it opposes terrorism in any form and has rendered support to the anti-terrorism campaign. US-China collaboration in the fight against terrorism has been deepened constantly and the two countries have already had three rounds of consultations on anti-terrorism.

As the host of the six-party talks held in Beijing in late August, China has been playing a co-operative role in handling the nuclear crisis on the Korean Peninsula by actively propelling relevant parties to solve the issue through dialogue, forming part of the international community's effort to make the peninsula nuclear free.

The Chinese Government has carried out several rounds of constructive diplomatic mediation since March between the different countries involved to promote the peace talks and is currently on another diplomatic foray to push for a fresh round of multilateral negotiations to break the nuclear stalemate on the peninsula.

US President Bush and other high-ranking officials have expressed, on many occasions, that China is a "valuable partner" and is playing a "constructive role" in international affairs and the United States expects to expand and strengthen co-operation with China in various areas, which will not only benefit the two countries but also be of significance in safeguarding regional and world peace and stability.

Strictly abiding by the principles laid down in the three Sino-US joint communiques is a guarantee of healthy development in bilateral relations.

The US Ambassador to China Clark T. Randt described the Sino-US relations with "three Cs," namely, "constructive," "co-operative," and "candid."

However, the ambiguous US strategy across the Taiwan Straits only serves to encourage the island's separatists and jeopardize the one-China policy as well as the political foundation of Sino-US relations.

Having witnessed the development of Sino-US relations during the past three decades, former US Secretary of State Alexander M. Haig said at the symposium that the United States should firmly adhere to the one-China policy and no wrong signals in any form should be sent to enforce "Taiwan independence."

Experts have also pointed out, as this year's US presidential election campaign heats up, that a benign Sino-US relationship in the wake of September 11 now faces challenges.

The US policy towards China will be one of the points used by Democratic hopefuls to attack incumbent Republican President George W. Bush.

It is in the fundamental interest of both sides that American politicians try to base trade policies on economics rather than politics to prevent US domestic politics from disturbing Sino-US relations.

As two countries at different stages of economic development, China and the United States have distinct priorities.

Differences are inevitable in inter-state relations. In maintaining a sound relationship where ostensible differences exist, the most productive approach is to let common interests prevail.

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