Chinese State Councilor Dai Bingguo (front, L) and U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton (front, R) walk to the conference room of the Strategic Track Discussions of the China-U.S. Strategic and Economic Dialogue in Washington, the United States, July 27, 2009. The China-U.S. Strategic and Economic Dialogue, the first of its kind between the world's biggest developing country and biggest developed country, opened here on Monday. [Photo: Xinhua]
Both China and the United States have attached great importance to the first ever China-U.S. Strategic and Economic Dialogue (S&ED), which kicked off on a high note in the U.S. capital on Monday.
CHINESE, U.S. LEADERS PIN HIGH HOPES
Chinese President Hu Jintao and U.S. President Barack Obama have pinned high hopes on the July 27-28 dialogue, a mechanism upgraded from the previous Strategic Dialogue and biannual Strategic Economic Dialogue initiated in 2005 and 2006 respectively.
President Hu sent a congratulatory letter to the S&ED, which was read at the opening ceremony by his special representative, Chinese Vice Premier Wang Qishan. Wang and Chinese State Councilor Dai Bingguo, both co-chairing the dialogue on behalf of the Chinese president, are leading a large delegation of some 150 senior officials, 24 of them at or above the ministerial level.
Hu said in his message that both countries shoulder important responsibilities on a host of major issues concerning peace and development of mankind, adding that in the face of the complex and changing international economic and political situation, China and the United States should endeavor to expand common ground, reduce differences, enhance mutual trust and strengthen cooperation through the strategic and economic dialogue.
"This serves the common interest of the two sides and will help advance the positive, cooperative and comprehensive relationship between our two countries," said the Chinese leader.
"It is also of great importance for peace, stability, development and prosperity of the whole world," he added.
"I am confident that with the concerted efforts of both teams, the S&ED mechanism will keep improving and growing and inject new dynamism and make new contribution to our mutually beneficiary cooperation in various areas and to the growth of our positive, cooperative and comprehensive relationship," said Hu.
President Obama addressed the dialogue's opening in person, elaborating on an array of issues, ranging from the financial crisis, security and climate change. He also stressed the importance of cooperation between the two countries.
He hailed the dialogue as an "essential step forward in advancing a positive, constructive, and comprehensive relationship " between the two countries.
"Our countries have now shared relations for longer than we were estranged. Our people interact in so many ways. And I believe that we are poised to make steady progress on some of the most important issues of our times," he said.
Obama said no nation can meet the challenges of the 21st century on its own, which "only makes U.S.-China dialogue more important."
The U.S. side also gave unprecedented priority the dialogue, the first of its kind under the Obama administration. Twelve officials at or above the ministerial level, including Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Secretary of Treasury Timothy Geithner who are co-chairing the dialogue for the American side, were involved in the dialogue.
"SAME BOAT" THEORY
It is widely noticed that Clinton has time and again preached the "same boat" theory while making important remarks on U.S.- China relations on various occasions.
In a joint letter to The Wall Street Journal published on Monday, Clinton and Geithner stressed the importance of the dialogue, saying "few global problems can be solved by the U.S. or China alone. And few can be solved without the U.S. and China together."
"The strength of the global economy, the health of the global environment, the stability of fragile states and the solution to nonproliferation challenges turn in large measure on cooperation between the U.S. and China," said the two key cabinet members in the letter.
"But having these strategic-level discussions with our Chinese counterparts will help build the trust and relationships to tackle the most vexing global challenges of today -- and of the coming generation," says the letter.
The top U.S. diplomat and top financial official cited the Chinese aphorism "When you are in a common boat, you need to cross the river peacefully together" to express their hope of strengthening cooperation between the two countries. China has now become Washington's single biggest creditor, with 801.5 billion dollars in Treasury securities, according to the U.S. Treasury Department.
Addressing the opening ceremony, Geithner echoed Clinton's " same boat" theory by speaking in Mandarin Chinese "Tong Zhou Gong Ji," the Chinese phrase for "the same boat" theory, and expressed hope that both sides could work together to tackle tough global issues.
TOP CONCERN FOR BOTH COUNTRIES
Observers here have noticed that both China and the United States are giving top priority to economic issues on their agenda.
In the joint letter to The Wall Street Journal, Clinton and Geithner said that "at the top of the list will be assuring recovery from the most serious global economic crisis in generations and assuring balanced and sustained global growth once recovery has taken hold."
The second and third priorities are "making progress on the interconnected issues of climate change, energy and the environment," and "finding complementary approaches to security and development challenges in the region and across the globe."
It is widely believed that both China and the United States share the same interest in helping the global economy achieve a quick recovery. Ever since the financial crisis erupted in the United States last year, the world economy has maintained a downward trend, seriously hurting both countries and the rest of the world as well.
Chinese experts pointed out that Beijing hopes Washington could adopt responsible policies to ensure the basic stability of the exchange rate of the U.S. dollar and protect the safety of Chinese assets in the United States.
Chinese officials also worry that massive U.S. stimulus spending might spark inflation that would erode the value of the dollar and China's holdings of U.S. government debt.
Although U.S. Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke had told Congress earlier that the American central bank is confident it can prevent a flare up of inflation once a recovery is firmly rooted, experts warn that both appreciation and devaluation of the dollar are closely linked with the national interests of the United States. This has been proven by U.S. practice to the Japanese yen in the past decades.
WIDE RANGE OF ISSUES REQUIRE CLOSER COOPERATION
The two-day dialogue, which will cover not only bilateral matters but also regional and global topics of common concern, is widely seen as one of the latest signs of the steady growth of China-U.S. relations despite a change of leadership in the White House in January.
Since President Obama took office, China and the United States have shown the world a strong signal by cooperating closely in tackling the global financial crisis. The two countries have also made achievements in their cooperation in the fields of economy and trade, fight against terrorism, law enforcement, science, education, culture and health.
Meanwhile, both countries have significantly expanded the scope of their bilateral cooperation to include more multilateral issues.
David Shambaugh, a China expert at George Washington University, said that the U.S.-China relationship is "no longer merely bilateral," and it has become "more and more internationalized."
Since the start of 2009, the two countries have effectively consulted on such major international and regional matters as the Iranian nuclear issue, denuclearization on the Korean Peninsula, energy security, and climate change.
These matters, including the resumption of the six-party talks on the Korean Peninsular nuclear issue, are also on the agenda of the July 27-28 dialogue.
Despite differences on certain issues, the China-U.S. relations are expected to continue developing in the second half of this year as greater cooperation has become a consensus of both countries, observers say.
Obama has accepted Hu's invitation to visit China later this year. U.S. analysts expect the presidential visit to help lift bilateral relations to a new height. 1 2