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Will Biden's China visit boost China-U.S. relations?

By Zhang Quan (Jiefang Daily)

08:02, August 18, 2011

Edited and Translated by People's Daily Online

U.S. Vice President Joe Biden will start a six-day visit to China on Aug. 17. Will his visit consolidate the upward momentum of stable and positive China-U.S. relations?

Obama’s right-hand man

Biden’s visit is the first of the planned reciprocal visits between the vice presidents of the two countries announced during Chinese President Hu Jintao's state visit to the United States in January. It will help the United States adjust its future policy toward China and ensure stable bilateral relations.

Yuan Peng, director of the Institute of American Studies under the China Institutes of Contemporary International Relations, said that from an international perspective, the U.S. debt crisis has seriously jeopardized the world economy. China, the largest foreign holder of U.S. debt, has maintained close economic ties with the United States, and both countries have practical needs to coordinate interests through dialogue.

From a U.S. domestic perspective, Barack Obama needs someone to shoulder the diplomatic burden so he can focus on next year's presidential elections. As Hillary Clinton does not plan to serve a second term as the Secretary of State, it is certain that Obama will rely more on Biden, a veteran dovish diplomat, in developing foreign policy toward China. This is another important context for Biden’s upcoming trip to China.

Biden had visited China twice — once in 1979 and 2001. He expressed clear opposition to treating China as a potential enemy and stressed that China and the United States share common interests. Yuan said that by visiting China again after 10 years, Biden will have a deeper and better understanding of the peacefully rising country. This visit is expected to produce a relatively profound impact on his future decision-making about China.

Topics for discussion are wide

Experts generally believe that the topics that will be discussed during Joe Biden's visit probably will be very wide and will cover the economies of China and the United States, the issue of the U.S. arms sales to Taiwan and a series of hot international and regional issues.

Zhou Shijian, a senior analyst for the China-U.S. Relations Research Center under the Tsinghua University, said that, in the economic realm, the "U.S. debt barrier lake" has forced China to regard the safety of its U.S. dollar assets as the most important topic. This is especially critical since the rating of the bonds issued by the Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae were downgraded, and the U.S. Department of the Treasury plans to sell the bonds between March 2011 and June 2012 at a rate of 10 billion U.S. dollars per month. China needs to consider countermeasures urgently for dealing with the privatized bonds.

In addition, Barack Obama's goal of doubling the United States' exports will rely on the huge market of China. However, China is not included in the countries and regions enjoying favorable trade measures, such as the loosening export control policy issued in 2010 or in the "Strategic Trade Authorization License Exception" issued in 2011 by the United States. This kind of trade discrimination will do nothing but negatively affect the normal trade between the two countries.

The U.S. arms sales to Taiwan is also a major sensitive topic of Biden's visit to China. The U.S. side once said that it would decide whether it would sell arms to Taiwan before October. As Biden's visit coincides with the 29th anniversary of the "Aug. 17 Communique" regarding arms sales to Taiwan signed between China and the United States, Biden's attitude will directly imply whether the United States will keep its promise. Furthermore, the issues relating to China’s military power, such as the South China Sea issue and the sea trials of China's first aircraft carrier, will also possibly be put on the table. In terms of international topics, both sides will likely make consultations on the situation in the Korean Peninsula, West Asia and North Africa.

Experts said that following Biden's visit to China, Chinese Vice President Xi Jinping will perhaps visit the United States by the end of 2011. The frequent exchanges among senior officials of China and the United States will lay a solid foundation for a mutually respectful, mutually beneficial main theme of this year's China-U.S. relations.


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