CHINA-U.S. relations, trade ties in particular, which have long attracted much attention, became even more delicate this year following a series of incidents in bilateral trade. Nevertheless, cooperation has been and is still the main goal of the two countries, said Chinese Ambassador to the United States Zhou Wenzhong during a recent exclusive interview with Beijing Review:
This year marks the 35th anniversary of President Nixon's visit to China and China-U.S. rapprochement. From mutual hostility and isolation to contacts, dialogue and cooperation, China and the United States have traveled a formidable journey over the past decades. History shows that a sound, stable and continuously developing China-U.S. relationship serves the fundamental interests of the two countries and peoples, and benefits world peace and development. The good situation in China-U.S. relationship has not come by easily. Together, the two countries have worked long and hard for it, and therefore should cherish it with great care.
China and the United States have seen steady progress in their bilateral ties over the past years. Cooperation remains the main theme. The global influence and strategic significance of the bilateral relations have been increasing. The broadening of common strategic interests of both sides demonstrates the rising significance of China-U.S. relationship, making it more obvious that such relationship is not limited to and has gone far beyond the scope of bilateral ties.
Contacts at the top level have been close and frequent. President Hu Jintao and President George W. Bush held successful meetings alongside the G8 plus five in June and the APEC Economic Leaders' Meeting in September, during which they reached important agreement on a host of issues and gave new impetus to the development of the bilateral relationship.
Dialogue mechanisms at various levels have become increasingly well established. China and the United States have more strategic dialogue mechanisms between them than they have with other countries. This year witnessed the Fourth Round of the China-U.S. Strategic Dialogue, or the Senior Dialogue, and the Third China-U.S. Strategic Economic Dialogue. These two mechanisms provide new and important platforms for the two countries to have in-depth and strategic dialogues in the political and economic dimension, respectively, and help strengthen the strategic mutual trust between the two countries. China's National People's Congress maintains active exchange mechanisms with both the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives. Through 60-plus working level bilateral mechanisms, the two countries also stay in close consultation and dialogue over a wide range of subjects, from political and economic issues to military, law enforcement, science and technology, education, energy, environmental protection and aviation.
China-U.S. exchanges and cooperation continue to develop in various fields.
Trade and economic cooperation has grown rapidly. China and the United States are now the second largest trading partners of each other, and China has been America's fastest growing export market for five years in a row. Bilateral trade amounted to $262.6 billion last year, and reached $221.36 billion as of September this year, growing 15.6 percent year on year.
With over 6,000 people traveling across the Pacific everyday, bilateral cultural, educational and youth exchanges continue to expand.
Bilateral military ties, which form an important part of China-U.S. relationship, have seen steady improvement and development over the last years. The visit to China by U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates in early November at the invitation of Chinese Defense Minister Cao Gangchuan achieved positive results. The two sides have agreed to open a direct telephone line between the Chinese Defense Ministry and the U.S. Department of Defense. They also agreed to continuously strengthen dialogues and exchanges at various levels, including educational exchange programs for senior and mid-level officers and joint humanitarian disaster relief exercises. I believe that so long as both sides strengthen strategic mutual trust and deepen practical cooperation, the military-to-military relations between the two countries will make greater progress.
China and the United States have maintained close dialogue and coordination in international and regional affairs. Frequent cooperation between the two countries on hotspots and cross-border issues has further highlighted the global significance of China-U.S. relationship. The joint document released by the second session of the sixth round of the six-party talks in early October, which set a timetable for the Democratic People's Republic of Korea to disable its nuclear facilities, is a result of concerted efforts of all parties involved, including China and the United States.
On unconventional security front, China and the United States are also strengthening cooperation. Climate change is an important topic in the Strategic Economic Dialogue. The two countries are seeking cooperation in aiding underdeveloped countries in the prevention and control of large-scale epidemic diseases. On food and drug safety issue, the two sides are going to sign a memorandum of understanding on cooperation.
However, despite increasing cooperation, disputes and problems still exist between China and the United States. With different historical heritage, social systems and levels of development, the two countries naturally have different views here or there.
The Taiwan question is the most important and most sensitive issue at the core of China-U.S. relationship. Currently, the pro-"independence" forces in Taiwan have stepped up their secessionist activities, seriously harming the cross-Straits relations and the peace and development in the region, and pushing the Taiwan Straits situation to a highly dangerous point. The Chen Shui-bian authorities have recently become more reckless and dangerous in their secessionist activities aimed at "Taiwan independence." They have openly engaged in such "de jure independence" activities as pushing ahead with a "referendum on Taiwan joining the UN" and applying for "UN membership under the name Taiwan," intentionally creating tensions in the Taiwan Straits region. China appreciates the U.S. reiteration on adhering to the one-China policy, abiding by the three Sino-U.S. joint communiqués, opposing "Taiwan independence" and opposing the "referendum on Taiwan joining the UN" and the "application for UN membership under the name Taiwan." China hopes that the United States will honor its above pledges with concrete action, reaffirm its stance of opposing "Taiwan independence" in clearer and unambiguous terms, stop sending wrong signals to the "Taiwan independence" separatists and work in parallel with China to uphold the peace and stability in the Taiwan Straits region and safeguard the larger interests of the China-U.S. relationship.
China and the United States have different opinions on the human rights issue. China is a signatory to many conventions on human rights and has had dialogues with many countries on this issue. But in the final analysis, human rights issue is the internal affair of a country. The protection of human rights should be implemented in light of the specific national situation of a country and through its own laws. China is ready to have dialogues with the United States and exchange ideas on the human rights issue on the basis of equality and mutual respect. But China is firmly opposed to the U.S. side's interference in China's internal affairs under the pretext of human rights issue.
Last October, in defiance of the solemn representation and strong opposition from the Chinese side, the U.S. Congress awarded a Congressional Gold Medal to the Dalai Lama at the Capitol in Washington D.C. Top U.S. officials and several members of Congress attended and made remarks at the ceremony, and met with the Dalai Lama. This move gravely violated the fundamental norms governing international relations and the position reiterated by the U.S. Government on many occasions that the U.S. recognizes Tibet as an inalienable part of the Chinese territory. It was a blatant interference in China's internal affairs, which has severely hurt the feelings of the Chinese people and undermined the relationship between the two countries. China urges the U.S. side to cease supporting and conniving at the separatist activities of the "Tibet independence" forces, stop interfering in China's internal affairs and take concrete steps to protect China-U.S. relationship.
The impacts of globalization have led some people in the United States to intensify their efforts to politicize trade issues between the two countries. Trade protectionist sentiment is rising in the United States. Against such a backdrop, bilateral mechanisms, such as the Strategic Economic Dialogue, are crucial and effective platforms for easing trade tensions and stabilizing bilateral trade relations.
China and the United States are both big countries with significant influence in the world. On matters such as safeguarding world peace and stability and promoting universal and common development, they share extensive common interests and important responsibilities. China and the United States are not only stakeholders but also constructive partners. China is ready to join hands with the United States to always proceed from the strategic and long-term interests, work in the spirit of mutual respect, equality, reciprocity and win-win cooperation, follow the principles set forth in the three Sino-U.S. joint communiqués, steadfastly implement the important agreement between the presidents, attach importance to mutual concerns, enhance strategic mutual trust and deepen dialogues and cooperation in various fields so as to further advance the constructive and cooperative China-U.S. relationship in the 21st century in an all-round way.
(Reporting by Wang Gangyi, Wang Yanjuan and Chen Wen from Washington D.C.)