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China, U.S. search for common ground

Analysis by Jamie Dettmer
U.S. President Barack Obama listens to Chinese President Hu Jintao during the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation summit in Honolulu, Hawaii. [Reuters]

U.S. President Barack Obama listens to Chinese President Hu Jintao during the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation summit in Honolulu, Hawaii. [Reuters]

Chinese leader Hu Jintao and U.S. President Barack Obama are searching for common ground as they seek ways to improve relations between their countries, according to officials, analysts, business executives and political observers.

Officials said that despite thorny disagreements ranging from maritime rights in the South China Sea to the value of the yuan, what was notable at the leaders’ last bilateral encounter during the recent Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation summit in Honolulu was how both emphasized the constructive nature of their talks.

At times, sharp differences were aired during the meeting between Hu and Obama. But the candor of that bilateral meeting did not detract from the central message U.S. officials are sending: That they view China not as an adversary, but as a potential partner on a wide range of important political and economic issues.

The two leaders hashed out a number of crucial topics during their formal bilateral discussion, White House aides said. Among them:

• Containing nuclear proliferation in Iran and North Korea.

• Establishing clear maritime rights in the South China Sea, which is a crucial commercial shipping lane thought to contain valuable oil and minerals.

• Working out the future of U.S. military forces in Japan.

In November, right after the Honolulu summit, President Obama took a 10-day tour through Asia, a trip which featured stops in China, Japan, Singapore and South Korea.

During the summit and throughout his Asian journey, Obama stressed the importance of China in sharing responsibility for the region’s future. He also praised the Chinese on several occasions.

“We welcome a rising, peaceful China,” Obama said during a joint press conference with Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard. “What they have been able to achieve, in terms of lifting hundreds of millions of people out of poverty over the last two decades, has been nothing short of remarkable. And that is good -- not just for China but potentially good for the region.”

Obama urged China to appreciate that its rise comes with increased responsibilities.

“It’s important for them to play by the rules of the road and in fact help underwrite the rules that have allowed so much remarkable economic progress to be made over the last several decades. Where China is playing by those rules, recognizing its new role, I think this is a win-win situation,” he said.

David Cunningham, president of FedEx’s Asia-Pacific division, said the summit provided an opportunity for the governments to identify “what’s important to facilitate trade, and to move economies along.”

“The most important thing is the dialogue,” Cunningham said.

The robust language during the meetings went both ways. Chinese leaders warned against interference by “external forces” in the maritime dispute over the resource-rich South China Sea, where several regional nations have competing claims.

On the issue of trade rules, Chinese officials said they would not abide by international economic decrees that China had no part in writing.

“If the rules are made collectively through agreement and China is a part of it, then China will abide by them. If rules are decided by one or even several countries (and China is not involved) China does not have the obligation to abide by that,” said Pang Sen, a deputy director-general at China’s Foreign Ministry.

Still, diplomats and Asia observers said the tone of public remarks made by Chinese and U.S. leaders suggests a possible breakthrough in the relationship between the two nations.

In remarks to the press, Hu insisted it is “all the more important” for China to develop communication and coordination with the United States amid “complicated world situations.” Hu said the Asia-Pacific region, which he described as the greatest potential for development in the world, should be an important area for active Sino-US cooperation.

In the run-up to the summit, Obama and White House aides stressed that they look upon China not as an adversary but as a potential partner -- a recognition of the importance they believe the Asia-Pacific will play in the future.

“It is becoming increasingly clear that in the 21st century, the world’s strategic and economic center of gravity will be the Asia-Pacific, from the Indian subcontinent to the western shores of the Americas,” Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said.

The summit came as Obama is seeking a broad reorientation of U.S. power worldwide, one likely to quicken as the American military withdraws from Iraq and, in 2014, from Afghanistan. That reorientation brings the Asian-Pacific into major focus, said White House aides.

The reorientation also involves beefing up the U.S. partnership with India, renewing military ties with the Philippines and other Asian nations, and promoting a trans-Pacific trade partnership that could include China. Beijing would have to agree to tougher labor, intellectual property, and environmental rules.

Obama said U.S. engagement in the Asia-Pacific region is “absolutely critical” to America’s prosperity. Expanded trade with the world’s fastest-growing region would help the U.S. create jobs, he said.

Richard C. Bush III, director o of the Center for Northeast Asian Policy Studies at the Brookings Institution, said Beijing and Washington see some of their interests converging.

“The major challenges facing the international system cannot be addressed by the United States alone [and they cannot be successfully managed without U.S. and Chinese involvement],” he wrote recently.

Difficulties remain, Bush said.

“But that is not a reason to give up. China does have overlapping interests with the United States, Japan, and the European Union on many issues,” Bush said.

The dialogue appears to already be bearing fruit. At the conclusion of the Asia-Pacific summit in Hawaii, the United States, China and Russia made clear they are united on the need to prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon.

“All three of us entirely agree on the objective, which is making sure that Iran does not weaponize nuclear power and that we don't trigger a nuclear arms race in region,” Obama said.


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Reader Comments


工农阶级 on 17/05/2012 at 12:01AM

The relationship between the bureaucratic officials and people is deteriorating. Corruption is out of control. Besides, there are more and more ads to promote the positive image of the Communist Party on TV. To the peasants and workers, these are just farces in which a group of clowns are flattering each other. It does not change the corruptive nature of the Communist Party. Don’t forget the grassroots peasants and workers. Most of the officials have forgotten the principle to serve the grassroots peasants, workers and the people. The words and deeds of the Communist Party should be subject to the supervision of the peasants and workers. If this goes on, the Communist Party will lose the support of the people. Besides, some of the foreigners are behaving very aggressive in China. If we are too weak, we will be bullied. You represent the country. You represent the people. I hope you could really protect the interests of our country around the world. Don’t be the ones to be blamed!!!

ZGN on 05/05/2012 at 08:06AM

It’s ok whether you understand or not. You can even complain. But don’t forget that you are a Chinese

许青 on 03/05/2012 at 09:31AM

A strong country should have some tough leaders. I hope our leaders won't yield an inch when facing the neighboring countries, protecting the core interests of China, and guarding the completeness of our territories!!! You are representing China. You are representing people. To the other countries, I hope our government can genuinely protect the interests of China and will not become the target to be blamed!!!!

liming on 21/04/2012 at 06:43AM

A coward can be the General Secretary and the President of a country. Hold on, he could treat his people like a wolf!

郭国 on 15/04/2012 at 08:17AM

We hope China is not Ci Xi or Li Hongzhang. Our territory should be guarded well to avoid the tragedy of the Opium War from happening. The Yuanmingyuan Imperial Garden is just about to revive. We should not take fighting-back as an objective. A tiger that is not killed will hurt people. If our ancestor didn't expand the territory, how can we have the 9,600,000km2 of land? We should learn from such leaders as Kim Jong-il, Ahmadinejad, Chavez and Putin. We should often review Chairman Mao's military ideas and theories.

www.ar6.cn on 14/04/2012 at 03:41AM

Our party and our army should negotiate with the U.S., with an highly responsible attitude toward the territory and the people. Obama just wanted China to take responsibilities. He was just praising China. Commercially, the U.S. practices anti-dumping; militarily, it curbs the development of China; politically, it attacks China; on human right issues, it smears China; and on the South China Sea issue, it helps the small neighboring countries against China. We don't see any future for the cooperation between China and the U.S. We hope China is not Ci Xi or Li Hongzhang. Our territory should be guarded well to avoid the tragedy of the Opium War from happening. The Yuanmingyuan Imperial Garden is just about to revive. We should not take fighting-back as an objective. A tiger that is not killed will hurt people. If our ancestor didn’t expand the territory, how can we have the 9,600,000km2 of land? We should learn from such leaders as Kim Jong-il, Ahmadinejad, Chavez and Putin. We should often review Chairman Mao’s military ideas and theories.

中天诚 on 11/04/2012 at 12:00PM

Sooner or later, China will collapse. The huge bureaucratic system has already become a noose that is exploiting the Chinese people. There is no need for the U.S. to add fuel to the fire. They only need to consider how to handle things after China collapses. It should take about three to five years. It does not comply with the basic behaving principles of a righteous person to save this system. There are methods, but there is nothing to be said. The future of the U.S. economy lies in the further construction of a globalized reasonable order. Pushing forward the integrative civilization process of the world was the main reason for the success of the U.S. in the past. In the future, how to perfect these rules and make them more suitable for the progress of human civilization will decide the future of the U.S. Inclusiveness is the basic advantage of the U.S. When designing the future and perfecting the integrative rules of the world, the slogan of the benefits of civilization development should be used more often than the slogan of the benefit of the U.S. At present, the most urgent thing is to push more countries to reserve USD, to expand the range of USD assets, to integrate the benefits of Europe and the U.S., to use a benefit inclusiveness design, and to make EUR-USD a harmonious system. The U.S. needs more economic allies. Military allies are no longer important enough. They are just a tool for keeping the order. Wars won't create effective profit.

正川 on 11/04/2012 at 04:15AM

It is certainly good, and essential, to “govern a country with virtue”. But in reality, what happened to some people? Absolutely disgusting. Anonymous, published on 2012-04-11 at 15:56:28 [Reply] “According to relevant department leaders, our country is a socialist country ruled by law. The dignity and authority of law are not tramplable. Anyone who is involved, as long as the law is violated, shall be handled in accordance with the law without any appeasement.” They defalcate, corrupt and bribe together. They don’t admit; and they think it’s perfect. Is this good? Should they be promoted?

一介草民 on 02/03/2012 at 12:47PM

We need to have an overall view. Cooperation is possible only when it is beneficial to China. Anything that is harmful for our country and people shall be opposed.

官家 on 01/02/2012 at 09:33AM

I think Sino-US ties can be developed well!

侴作义 on 22/01/2012 at 08:32PM

Our party and army shall negotiate with the U.S. while maintain a high sense of responsibility for its territory and people. Obama just wants China to take responsibilities by praising China. However, in business area, the U.S. are practicing anti-dumping; in military area, it is curbing our development; in political area, it is trying to siege China; in human right area, it viciously smear us; on the South China Sea issue, it confederates with the neighboring small countries against China. We see no future of China-U.S. cooperation. We hope the Chinese government won’t act like Tz'u Hsi and Li Hongzhang; We have to guard our gate. The tragedy of the Opium War shall not happen again since our Old Summer Palace is just about to revive. We don’t want make fighting back a goal. A tiger not beaten to death will hurt people. Without the territory expansions by our ancestors, how can China cover an area of 96,000,000 km2? We should learn from Kim Jong-il, Ahmadinejad, Chavez, Putin… we should often review the military thinking and political theories of Chairman Mao.