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State Councilor Yang's visit a boost to Sino-American relations

By Zhao Huanxin | China Daily USA | Updated: 2018-02-15 00:28

The visit to Washington by State Councilor Yang Jiechi has helped set in motion what a spokesperson for US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson says will be a "constructive and productive" bilateral relationship during the second year of Donald Trump's presidency.

The Feb 8 and 9 visit by Yang happened exactly three months after the historic meeting between President Xi Jinping and Trump in Beijing.

In a few months, US officials will meet their Chinese counterparts in China for the second Diplomatic and Security Dialogue, one of the four dialogue mechanisms agreed to by Xi and Trump at their Mar-a-Lago meeting last April. The first round of the conversation was held in Washington last June.

Then in the second half of the year, Chinese and US officials are expected to hold cabinet-level dialogues in areas including the economy, diplomacy, security, social and cultural exchange, law enforcement and cybersecurity.

These are important outcomes of Yang's visit to Washington. But more importantly, both sides have reaffirmed they would follow through on the consensus and outcomes achieved by the two presidents during their November summit.

In their Beijing meeting, Xi and Trump agreed that the two countries have wide-ranging common interests, and promoting bilateral relations is in line with the fundamental interests of the two peoples and the common aspirations of international society.

But over the past several months, Washington has unleashed hawkish rhetoric against Beijing and rolled out a raft of protectionist trade measures.

It singled out China as a rival in its National Security Strategy, slapped steep tariffs on imported washing machines and solar panels, and is set to release the results of a probe into what it alleges is intellectual property theft by Chinese businesses, with possible punitive measures ensuing.

In turn, Beijing has categorized Washington's worrisome words and moves as either symptoms of its persistent Cold War mentality or an abuse of trade remedies that will harm both countries.

It has been reported that Yang, who is perceived as one of China's main conduits for talking to the Trump administration, successfully delivered Beijing's message through two days of face-to-face engagement with Trump and other White House officials.

Yang's first port of call was at the State Department, where he spoke with Tillerson and stressed that the two countries should increase their coordination on key international and regional issues, including the Democratic People's Republic of Korea nuclear issue.

They also should properly manage and control their differences and sensitive issues to ensure that bilateral relations yield more positive outcomes, Yang said.

State Department spokesperson Heather Nauert said Yang and Tillerson "agreed on the importance of continuing a constructive and productive relationship aimed at cooperation on mutual challenges and addressing our differences forthrightly".

The two also "discussed the need to achieve a fair and reciprocal bilateral economic relationship and cooperate to stem the flow of deadly narcotics", Nauert said Friday.

Yang's visit came a day after the US Senate Committee on Foreign Relations passed the Taiwan Travel Act, which encourages high-level visits between the US and Taiwan. The bill was passed by the US House of Representatives in January.

Yang made clear China's stance on the Taiwan question, requesting that the US take China's concerns seriously. Tillerson said that the United States remains committed to the one-China policy.

While meeting Yang on Friday, Trump asked him to convey his sincere regards to Xi, saying that US-China relations are very important, and that Washington is willing to strengthen cooperation with Beijing to further promote bilateral ties.

So, from Taiwan to trade, from increased coordination on the Korean Peninsula issue to high-level dialogues throughout 2018, the road map of China-US relations is clear to both sides.

There will be diverse activities and interactions unfolding, but the general trend should be to implement the consensuses and outcomes reached by the two presidents in their Beijing summit.

As a Chinese saying goes, "The whole year's work depends on a good start in spring." Let's hope the good start in bilateral relations, kicked off by Yang's exchanges with White House officials a week before the Chinese Spring Festival, will bear bountiful fruit in the second year of Trump's presidency.

Contact the writer at zhaohuanxin@chinadailyusa.com.

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