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China's "core interests" diplomacy gains ground

17:51, November 20, 2009

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By Li Hongmei People's Daily Online

The interpretation of China-U.S. joint statement issued by the two sides when U.S. President Barack Obama paid a four-day visit to China could vary considerably if reading from different perspectives and serving various political purposes. But it looms clear that the U.S. side will in all likelihood recalibrate its assessment on China's "core interests", a new code phrase meaning China's claim of sovereignty over Taiwan, Xinjiang and Tibet.

Especially viewed by many observers on Taiwan Issue, there seems to be a glimpse of dim light appearing at the end of the tunnel. Chinese Vice Foreign Minister He Yafei made the remarks Tuesday saying that respecting each other's core interests is the "key" to China-U.S. relations, immediately after the joint statement was issued following sweeping talks between President Hu Jintao and his U.S. counterpart Obama.

The two sides agreed that the fundamental principle of respect for each other's sovereignty and territorial integrity is at the core of the three Sino-U.S. joint communiqués which guide the bilateral relations. And presently, confronted with the shared challenges, both countries would have to "properly handle" the sensitive issues, as to nurture and deepen bilateral strategic trust is essential to China-U.S. relations in the new era.

"The United States welcomes the peaceful development of cross-Straits ties and is ready to see the enhanced dialogue and communication across the Straits in terms of economy, politics and other spheres, and expects a more positive and stable cross-Straits relations would be built," said the statement. For the first time ever, political dialogue across Taiwan Straits has been related in a formal document signed by both China and the U.S.

Starting from this April, the Chinese leaderships have invariably stressed China's "core interests" with sovereignty and territorial integrity highlighted on various occasions ranging from visiting abroad and receiving visits to engaging in multi-lateral diplomatic activities. But the U.S. side either gave no response or replied in diplomatic tactics. Shunning the word "recognize", instead, the American authorities would prefer to say they "acknowledge" China's "core interests".

China, adhering to its independent and nonalignment policy, has persisted in an "all-round" diplomacy since its founding day. The recalibration of its strategic focus in diplomacy to "core interests" seen evidently in recent months does not strike others as odd, as China is going global and its international influence is getting more visible and assertive. China's diplomatic strategies will accordingly comply with the change of the international environment and its domestic conditions. A sovereign state, before reaching out to others and acting as a responsible power for others, will have to stand up for the bottom line of its core interests.

On this account, the joint statement is a good start, this being reflected in at least the general direction the document points to----the U.S. agrees with the concept of China's "core interests" and recognizes Taiwan Issue as part of China's ‘core interests". The U.S. is willing to reconsider its standard practice and even reset its conventional stance over Taiwan Issue by standing at a height of the common strategic interests shared with china.

Admittedly, China-U.S. relations have gone over a bumpy road and now still on the rough track, littered with obstacles and pitted with cracks. There is always undercurrent ominously disturbing the smooth flow of the bilateral exchanges. But all this will not in the least block the progressive tendency of Sino-U.S. relations.

As a matter of fact, with the rapid rise of China's national strength, its relationship with the super power is witnessing a qualitative change toward a more positive direction, far from the other way round. Even if it is still too early to predict how long both countries will take to embrace their honeymoon, which might be ten years or more from now; and how many pitfalls they will have to steer clear of or how many setbacks and hidden dangers will unfold on their road towards finally building up the comprehensive partnership, one thing is certain---- Taiwan Issue will be less of a restricting force confining China-U.S. relations, if not totally brushed aside for the time being.

No one can hold back the general tendency much the way as no one can reverse history. It should be a foreseeable prospect for both China and the U.S. to finally drop the "Taiwan Complex".

The articles in this column represent the author's views only. They do not represent opinions of People's Daily or People's Daily Online.

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About this column

Li Hongmei, editor and columnist of PD Online.


Li HongLi Hong

After 19 years working for China Daily and its website, Li Hong moved to english.people.com.cn in March 2009.

Li has been a reporter and column writer, mainly on China's economy and politics.

He was graduated from Beijing Foreign Studies University, and once studied in University of Hawaii and the Poynter Institute in Florida.

Gavin Jon MowatGavin Jon Mowat

Gavin Jon Mowat, editor and columnist for People's Daily Online.

As a graduate from Heriot-Watt University in Edinburgh, UK, Gavin came to Beijing 2 years ago to study Chinese.

Enjoying the culture and traditions of the orient so much, Gavin has since left his home in Scotland and is now living and working in China.

Gavin uses his background in writing to share his experiences of China with you at People's Daily Online.