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Cover Stories Series 2011> A Rewarding State Visit> Opinions
UPDATED: January 12, 2011 Web Exclusive
Sino-U.S. Relations Expected to Move Forward
Mutual cooperation between China and the United States is continuing to flourish at the dawn of the new decade

STRENGTHENING COOPERATION: U.S. President Barack Obama greets Chinese President Hu Jintao at a dinner following the Nuclear Security Summit in Washington D.C. on April 12, 2010. The presidents discussed bilateral relations as well as global issues at a meeting held on the sidelines of the summit (XINHUA)

In reviewing Sino-U.S. relations in 2010, we can easily see that cooperation largely outweighed disagreement and discord. Although those bent on disturbing bilateral relations did not give up in their efforts to sever ties between the two states, the impact of their attempts became less significant as both countries continued to improve their relations over the past year. Mutual cooperation between the United States and China is continuing to flourish at the dawn of the new decade; this has not only benefited both of the nations in question, but also the world at large.

In its dealings with China last year, the United States was mostly concerned about the exchange rate of the renminbi, trade imbalances, equal treatment for U.S. companies operating in China, intellectual property protections, China's military buildup and Internet freedom. Meanwhile, the sale of U.S. arms to Taiwan, President Barack Obama's meeting with the Dalai Lama, territorial disputes in the South China Sea and restrictions on hi-tech exports from the States were at the top of China's list of contentions.

Of these issues, progress was made in resolving those most closely related to trade and economic cooperation. Intellectual property protections and the treatment of U.S. companies in China both saw improvement in 2010, with the United States often reaping greater benefits than China. Chinese concerns such as the Taiwan arms sales, which bear on China's core interests, led to the deterioration of Sino-U.S. relations in early 2010. Disputes over these issues were less politically devastating than in previous years, but still dealt a heavy blow to bilateral relations.

Another interesting aspect of Sino-U.S. relations in 2010 was the fact that the two countries engaged and consulted each other more frequently over the past year than in any other year in history. Almost all of the meetings between Chinese and U.S. heads of state and senior officials were held on the sidelines of multilateral events. The two countries maintained a largely cooperative stance, despite their different opinions on some major international issues such as the reform of global economic and financial governance systems and increasingly fierce competition in Asia, Africa and Latin America.

Engagement remains a hallmark of Sino-U.S. relations. The two countries are now engaging each other in broader areas and on deeper levels. However, figuring out how to get around major stumbling blocks while still enhancing the more positive aspects of the two countries' relations will be a major challenge for leaders in the near future.

The multidimensional relationship between China and the United States is becoming more complex and extensive than ever before. As a result, it will take more than a single issue or conflict to cause relations to completely collapse. However, it's also possible that even a small dispute could cause a political "chain reaction" of sorts, which could cause this complicated relationship to become dysfunctional. Therefore, it is imperative that both countries take great pains to preserve harmony and respect each others' points of view.

There is certainly a need for the United States to take China's core interests and concerns seriously. Although it will be extremely difficult to persuade the United States to take China's side in some matters, Washington's practice of periodically relieving domestic pressure by playing up these issues will become increasingly dangerous and ultimately unsustainable. This is because top- and mid-level officials from both countries will be conducting exchanges on an even more frequent basis in the future; it will ultimately be in the United States' best interest to avoid the almost cyclical outbreak of disputes between the two nations. The agendas of both countries are of great importance to the rest of the world; it is a must for these two countries to continue to improve their relations.

To that end, I believe that China needs to bolster its confidence in dealing with the United States. The main purpose of the United States' "return" to Asia is not necessarily to corner or bully China. Rather, the United States is simply aiming to make the most of the incredible opportunities currently available in Asia. However, the United States has also used disputes between China and other Asian nations to its advantage, attempting to court these other countries by taking their side in these conflicts. This is a sign that China's relations with other Asian nations are becoming more significant on the global stage; China is exerting a greater influence in Asia than ever before.

Given the development of Sino-U.S. relations thus far and the world's high expectations for the two countries, both China and the United States should no longer be content to maintain a diplomatic relationship that is not good or bad. Both countries should strive to improve their relations and continue moving forward in the years to come.

The author is Senior Editor of the People's Daily Overseas Edition

(Source: People's Daily Overseas Edition)

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