Wen's US visit a window of opportunity
( 2003-12-08 09:23) (China Daily HK Edition)
Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao's upcoming journey to the US will provide a window of opportunity for both sides.
From December 7 through 16, the premier will pay his first official visit to the United States, Canada, Mexico and Ethiopia, where he is scheduled to participate in the opening ceremony of the Second Ministerial Conference of the China-Africa Co-operation Forum.
Obviously, it is the United States, of all four countries, that will be the highlight of the premier's foreign journey, especially with the two big countries having a tug-of-war over bilateral trade and the revaluation of the Chinese currency, let alone the Taiwan question. The Taiwan authorities, despite Beijing's strong opposition, passed a law on referendums on November 27 that has made cross-Straits ties more tense and complicated.
Wen's trip to the US has become the focus of media attention both at home and abroad. An article headlined After Year of Crises, Chinese Premier Faces Trade War?in The Wall Street Journal of November 28 said that Wen is about to face one of his toughest challenges yet: winning over the US?
A paper even compared Wen's US visit with his predecessor's American journey in April 1999, during which the former Chinese premier failed to reach agreement with the Clinton administration on China's entry to the World Trade Organization, which, coupled with the bombing of the Chinese Embassy in Belgrade, worsened Sino-US relations.
However, the substantive context of the relationship between China and the United States today is quite different from that of yesterday; bilateral co-operation has deepened immensely and covers vaster fields ranging from high-level exchanges, trade and economy, counter-terrorism and nonproliferation, security and military, to science and technology, culture and education.
On September 9, US Secretary of State Colin Powell said with great confidence that the current status of US relations with China are the best they have been since President Nixon's first visit? Such an evaluation, arguable as it is, represents the mainstream in today's US; it also reflects the overall picture of the relationship.
In fact, Sino-US relations are maturing after many ups and downs since 1972, especially since the ?/11?terrorism attack. Wen's visit to the US may further strengthen bilateral ties if both sides handle it from a long-term perspective.
High-level visits by Chinese and US officials are more frequent, and their significance more profound than symbolic. From the Chinese perspective, it attaches great importance to its relations with the US. Since the new national leadership took office in March, President Hu Jintao has made only two foreign trips, and on both trips he met President Bush, first in Evian on June 1, then on October 19 in Bangkok. Was it a coincidence? Observers in the know reveal that when the two presidents met the second time in Bangkok, they showed greater familiarity towards each other and touched on sensitive topics, including Taiwan and the Chinese currency.
So far, Wen has made only three trips out of China, all to participate in international conferences, not official visits. However, at the invitation of Bush, Wen will make his first official visit to the US and will be only the fourth head of a foreign government to be welcomed by President Bush at the South Lawn of the White House with a 19-gun salute.
Besides all the hospitality accorded to a foreign dignitary, what will be on the agenda?
From the Chinese side, the Taiwan issue will be number one. Most recently, the mainland has been on a high alert on separatism by Taiwan authorities, especially in the form of referendum, constitution amendment, transit diplomacy or Money diplomacy by Chen Shui-bian.
On November 21, Wen, in an interview with Leonard Downie, executive editor of the Washington Post, reiterated the Chinese stance on upholding the one-China principle. He said that the Chinese people would not sit by and do nothing towards deliberate provocative moves aimed at splitting China. Soon, Richard Boucher, the US State Department spokesman, stated that he would be opposed to any referenda that would change Taiwan's status or move towards independence. He also said that the US takes Chen Shui-bian's Four No pledge in 2000 very seriously?
Well, what the Chinese side wants is not only words, but also deeds. During Wen's visit, he will restate the Chinese position and make American leaders recognize the gravity of Chen Shui-bian's true intentions, and ask the US to take practical measures that are conducive to maintaining peace and stability in the Taiwan Straits.
Actually, it is in the fundamental interests of the US and conducive to the development of Sino-US relations and cross-Straits stability if the US Government abides by the principles of the three Sino-US joint communiques and stops sales of sophisticated weapons to Taiwan at this sensitive time. Wen should continue to convey these messages to the American side.
Bilateral trade and revaluation of the Chinese currency will also be on the top of agenda. With a general election next year, the US has unilaterally initiated a trade war with China by imposing quotas on Chinese garments and proposing new tariffs on television sets and iron pipe fittings a few weeks before Wen is to arrive in the US.
In such a charged atmosphere, it would be all the more necessary for Wen to inform the American business community as well as the Bush administration of the Chinese standpoint:
First, Sino-US trade and economic relations create win-win situations. Bilateral trade has increased 40-fold during the past 25 years. It has become an important component of China-US relations and brought substantial benefits to the peoples of both countries. China has become the fastest growing export market for the US, with US exports to China increasing by 25.7 per cent during the first 10 months of this year.
Second, understandably and predictably, the development of China-US trade ties have sometimes set off disputes. Whether they will exacerbate the bilateral relationship depends largely on how they are reviewed and handled. Trade disputes should be settled through dialogue and consultation conducted on an equal footing. Unilateral action is not constructive or conducive to their resolution.
The Chinese side understands the US concern over the trade imbalance, and a basically balanced trade relationship can and should be achieved in the course of development. There exists huge potential in this field because the economies of China and the US mutually complement each other. The sustained growth of China's economy will provide the US with more business opportunities. China will continue to take measures to expand its imports from the US, and the US should grant China market-economy status and lift restrictions on exports to China.
Issues ranging from the Korean Peninsula nuclear issue, anti-terrorism and none-proliferation will also be discussed during Wen's talks with his American hosts.
Zi Qian is a Beijing-based political commentator.
|.contact us |.about us|
|Copyright By chinadaily.com.cn. All rights reserved|