China, U.S. underscore value of high-level dialogue to bilateral ties

08:03, May 26, 2010      

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China and the United States wound up the two-day 2nd China-U.S. Strategic and Economic Dialogue (S&ED) Tuesday, achieving consensus and even forging agreements in a number of areas of crucial significance for both sides as well as regional stability.

It is obviously of the utmost importance the two sides tread the path of dialogue to build cooperation and mutual benefit, given the complicated but important nature of the bilateral relations.


Leaders have acknowledged the vitality of the dialogue mechanism consisting of two tracks: economic and strategic, which was initiated last year by President Hu Jintao and his U.S. counterpart Barack Obama.

Hu said when with U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner that he hoped the S&ED would play a greater role in boosting bilateral relations.

"I hope the four special representatives and both teams will seriously implement the achievements, draw on their experiences, and strengthen the building of the mechanism so it can play a greater role," Hu said, referring to the leaders and ministers chairing the dialogue.

Both Clinton and Geithner were special representatives of President Obama. They were joined by Chinese Vice Premier Wang Qishan and State Councilor Dai Bingguo, both special representatives of President Hu.

They achieved consensus on bilateral relations, facilitating global economic recovery, anti-protectionism in international trade, pushing forward financial reforms and important international affairs.

The two dialogue partners also signed agreements covering trade, environment, energy and disease control at or on the sidelines of the S&ED, underscoring the value of the dialogue platform.

"The two teams worked hard to realize the vision" between Obama and Hu and that the two sides deepened cooperation in the second round of talks with the largest-ever delegation, Clinton said.

Clinton told Hu when they met she appreciated the "substantial speech" he made at the opening session of the dialogues.

President Obama once even drew on traditional Chinese wisdom of Mencius, a master of the Confucius school of teaching that has helped shape Chinese society, to illustrate the value of the high-level dialogue platform.

"A trail through the mountains, if used, becomes a path in a short time, but, if unused, becomes blocked by grass in an equally short time," Obama said at the opening of the 1st S&ED last year, quoting Mencius to compare the bilateral exchanges to blazing a path through the mountains.


How, then, to build on the path of dialogue?

Obviously it is necessary the two sides first build on the foundation, given it is a road of bilateral relations. It means they shall have to try to maximize the benefit in areas where the two sides share consensus or agreements while respecting the differences in each other's conditions and policies and minimizing the effect of the noise those differences create.

It is acknowledged that China and the United States share interests in world peace and development. Highly complementary in terms of economy, they are also natural partners instead of opponents in a zero-sum game.

The road should also be widened going ahead to cover civil aviation, express railways, infrastructure construction and space exploration, in addition to fields such as trade, energy, environment, anti-terrorism, non-proliferation, science and technology, education and agriculture.

"Current tensions on the Korean Peninsula underscore the strategic value of the dialogue. At the same time, America's commercial relationship with China is critical to our nation's economic growth," John Frisbie, president of the U.S.-China Business Council, said in a statement.

The United States and China needed to cooperate more on issues such as regional security, energy and the environment, maintaining open trade and investment regimes, and coordinating economic recovery policies. The S&ED provided a forward-looking, high-level, cross-agency mechanism for dealing with key issues in the U.S.-China relationship, Frisbie said.

Equally important are the efforts to prevent the grasses from blocking the path of bilateral relations. Experience shows healthy developments typically come in Sino-U.S. relations when they concentrate on areas where common interests are shared while retaining differences.

It is not that they have to eliminate differences. China has been consistent that the two sides handle sensitive issues carefully and respect and consider the policies of each other on issues that greatly concern the other side.

The right of the other side to the road should also be respected. Differences indeed exist between the two sides in cultural traditions, values and beliefs, and approaches to development. The two, like two people, should have respect when dealing with each other.

It is complicated, but this should not stop us from believing that China and the United States shall be able to make the road better and wider to benefit themselves and the world.


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