Thirty-five years after former U.S. President Richard Nixon's visit to China, the principles of the Shanghai Communique remain the touchstone of U.S.-China relations, a leading U.S. expert said.
"In one very important respect the Communique provided an example of how the two sides should handle disagreements," David M. Lampton, director of China Studies at Johns Hopkins University, said in a recent interview with Xinhua.
"It identified common points between China and the United States, and each side also honestly expressed the differences that remained," he added.
On Feb. 21, 1972, Nixon arrived in Beijing for a week-long "ice-breaking" tour. On Feb. 28, the last day of his visit, the two sides signed a joint communique, known as the Shanghai Communique.
"The Communique also was based on an understanding of the One China principle, the need to carefully handle the Taiwan issue," noted Lampton, who is a former president of the National Committee on U.S.- China Relations.
"These remain the basic conditions for effectively managing U.S.-China relations to this day, " he said.
In Lampton's opinion, the most impressive improvement in U.S.-China relations since the Shanghai Communique is that "the two sides have had a peaceful, though not entirely calm, relationship for 35 years."
Firstly, China and the United States have benefited enormously from pursuing their common interests, he said, while the second level of the communique's importance is seen in the positive changes in cultural relations and economic ties.
Finally, the scope of U.S.-China relations has expanded greatly since then, he added.
"Today it is a relationship knitted together at every level of our two societies and governmental systems. Moreover, the U.S.-China relationship is knitted together by our common membership in global organizations," said Lampton.
The lesson of Nixon's trip, he noted, is that, in order to succeed, U.S.-China relations must be based on common long-term interests.
"Nixon's early statement to Chairman Mao that it was common interests that brought us together remains true-- and it is common interests that will keep us together," said the expert.
He said there are differences and some similarities between the China policy of Nixon's administration and the current administration.
"The similarities now involve the fact that, as in the Vietnam War era, the United States is now involved in foreign conflict and also has other global issues like nuclear proliferation, in which Washington desires China's cooperation," said Lampton.
In other words, "there is an important strategic context, for both Nixon in 1971-1972, and for U.S. President George W. Bush today", and "those strategic contexts foster U.S.-China cooperation, " he said.
The big difference is that "the range of issues in U.S.-China relations confronting the U.S. President is much greater today than it was in the early 1970s."
"Most obviously, trade was virtually not a consideration in 1971-1972 and it is a major concern for the current administration, " said Lampton.
He said it is very important for both countries to maintain a healthy and steady relationship.
"Without peaceful and productive U.S.-China relations, there cannot be peace and prosperity in Asia. And, without peace and prosperity in Asia there will not be peace in the world," said the expert.