MEETING OF THE MINDS: Chinese President Hu Jintao (left second) meets with U.S. Speaker of the House of Representatives John Boehner (right second) in Washington, D.C. on January 20 (XINHUA)
Chinese President Hu Jintao's four-day state visit to the United States came at a critical moment for China-U.S. relations and was of great significance.
The world has changed considerably in the four decades since China and the United States resumed exchanges. As economic globalization has increased, significant changes have taken place in international affairs. Therefore, it is urgent for both countries to step out from the shadow of the Cold War and adapt to a new international environment.
The international financial crisis resulted in a degree of new economic development models and methods of cooperation. Against the backdrop of the world economy's gradual recovery and increasing pressure of economic transition, it is important for China and the United States to decide how to adjust cooperation so as to create vitality and avoid conflicts.
In terms of security, the world is facing threats from more extensive and diversified sources. Terrorism, proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, new diseases and natural disasters are affecting countries around the world. Faced with such challenges, China and the United States should reconsider the previous assessment of these threats. If these two major countries fail to come together, each will be subject to great losses, as will the international security situation.
Although the two countries have engaged in exchanges of culture, education, science and technology, true understanding between them remains quite limited. Judging from Chinese people's passion for the U.S. Pavilion during the 2010 World Expo in Shanghai and the American people's enthusiasm for various Chinese culture festivals in the United States, people of both countries desire to understand each other better.
In light of the events of 2010, it is also essential for the two countries to get relations back on a positive track. That's why Hu scheduled his journey to the United States at the start of 2011. China hopes to eliminate suspicions and promote consensus with the United States in order to ensure a smooth and healthy relationship in the new international environment.
Hu's visit carried great importance for the United States. The Chinese president conducted extensive contact and frank communication with all circles of American people. Through such interactions, Hu introduced China's path of peaceful development to people in America and throughout the world. He showed China's determination to actively strengthen cooperation with the United States and participate in international affairs. He expressed a sincere wish to further understand the United States and hoped the United States could understand China better, as well.
It was not a happenchance that Hu's visit focused on strengthening understanding between the two nations. It indicated that China has realized cooperation to gain material interests alone is clearly not enough for bilateral ties. China also realized the need to share development experience and deepen consensus with the United States.
In the two decades since the end of the Cold War, China and the United States have certainly agreed that cooperation benefits both while confrontation hurts both. The United States has, on many occasions—including during this visit—reiterated that it welcomes a strong, prosperous and successful China playing a greater role in international affairs. Undoubtedly, this is important and positive progress.
But on the other hand, so-called structural contradictions do exist between China and the United States. In the current international system, this is almost an inevitable phenomenon between two large countries. Just as the joint statement issued during this visit said: "The two leaders recognize that the relationship between the United States and China is both vital and complex."
The difficulties encountered in China-U.S. relations last year were the result of misunderstandings and misjudgments. Due to historical, economic, political and cultural differences, it was difficult for the two nations to fully understand the other's ideas and intentions. When issues occurred, both sides tended to expect the worst of the other and respond in kind. This resulted in a decline in China-U.S. relations and relevant situations became increasingly tense.
Clearly, an enhanced mutual understanding is crucial to the stabilization and development of China-U.S. relations. Only when the two nations truly understand each other's societies, can they establish a stable, lasting and trust-based cooperative relationship.
China believes there many non-material things the two countries can share and use to learn from each other. China is the world's largest developing country and the United States is the world's largest developed country. If they can look favorably upon each other, overcome their shortcomings and learn from each other's strong points, their combined power will benefit global development.
The author is director of the Center for American Studies at the Shanghai Institutes for International Studies