Mapping out the path ahead

By Fu Mengzi (China Daily)
Updated: 2011-01-24 07:54
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China and the US are highly interdependent and the joint statement outlined the long-term framework for future ties

The joint statement issued by President Hu Jintao and his US counterpart Barack Obama during Hu's just-concluded state visit to the United States is expected to guide the development of Sino-US relations in the second decade of the 21st century.

Hu's visit came after the turbulence, frictions and increased mutual suspicions that arose during the past year and it was hoped his trip would help restore mutual trust and revive healthy relations.

China and the US have forged a highly interdependent relationship and both countries benefit from mutual cooperation and suffer from any disagreements. As the world's two largest economies, Sino-US relations are becoming the most important bilateral relationship in the world, with a growing strategic and global significance.

During their meeting, the two presidents mapped out the basic long-term framework for future ties, indicating the two countries' willingness to pursue and ensure their respective interests in a positive and cooperative manner.

The visit helped reverse the antagonistic momentum that had developed in bilateral ties and re-established the two countries as "a cooperative partnership based on mutual respect and mutual benefit".

In the US-China Joint Statement, the two countries said they "reaffirmed their commitment to building a positive, cooperative, and comprehensive US-China relationship for the 21st century", one that serves the interests of "the American and Chinese peoples and the global community".

The US also reaffirmed that it "welcomes a strong and prosperous China that plays a greater role in world affairs" and Hu acknowledged the positive and constructive role played by the US in the Asia-Pacific region, a stance that will help ease Washington's long-held misgivings toward China's possible intention to drive the US out of East Asia. The two countries also agreed on the vital importance of maintaining a peaceful and stable Korean Peninsula and vowed to check dangerous situations on the peninsula.

The two countries stressed again the importance of realizing a nuclear weapons-free world and strengthening the global non-proliferation regime to tackle the threat posed by nuclear proliferation and terrorism.

There was also consensus that climate change and energy security were two of the most important issues confronting the international community. Both countries agreed "to continue their close consultations on action to address climate change, coordinate to achieve energy security for our peoples and the world, build on existing clean energy cooperation, ensure open markets, promote mutually beneficial investment in climate friendly energy, encourage clean energy, and facilitate advanced clean energy technology development".

However, at the top of the agenda were economic and trade issues, which have long been the bedrock of Sino-US ties. Despite the ups and downs of their broader ties, economic and trade links between the two countries have always demonstrated huge vigor, which has resulted in enormous and tangible benefits for both.

The consensus between Hu and Obama to build a comprehensive and mutually beneficial economic partnership bestows on the two countries the responsibility to push forward and expand bilateral cooperation. The $45 billion in trade deals inked during President Hu's visit will not only create 230,000 jobs in the US, but will also inject a new vitality into already-booming bilateral economic and trade cooperation.

China is the US' fastest-growing export market and the two countries are soon expected to be the other's largest trading partner. Smooth economic and trade cooperation and strengthened coordination on macroeconomic polices have not only increased their common interests, but have also played a positive role in the global economic recovery and development after the financial crisis.

One of the major areas of friction between the two countries has been their respective monetary policy. Prior to President Hu's visit, some US Congress members were still accusing China of currency manipulation and calling for punitive measures, even though China's yuan exchange rate is not the source of its huge trade surplus with the US.

And in an interview with the US media before his trip, President Hu said that US monetary policy will have "important influences on global liquidity and capital flow" and that "the dollar should keep a reasonable liquidity". He stressed the US' responsibility in maintaining the stability of the dollar's exchange rate.

In the joint statement China said it will continue to promote exchange rate reform and enhance yuan exchange rate flexibility, and promote the transformation of its economic development model, while the US affirmed it would focus on reducing its medium-term federal deficit and ensure long-term fiscal sustainability, and maintain vigilance against excess volatility in exchange rates.

Due to their different national conditions, social systems and historical and cultural backgrounds the problems that have long existed between China and the US will not be resolved by a single summit.

Indeed, the closer the ties they develop, the more likely problems are to show up. Only by cultivating strategic mutual trust and pursuing a win-win relationship in a positive and constructive manner can China and the US relations maintain a cooperative partnership on the right track.

The author is assistant president and a research professor with the China Institute of Contemporary International Relations.