Highs and lows of US diplomacy

Updated: 2012-12-15 08:24

By Shen Dingli (China Daily)

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Under the leadership of Obama and Clinton, Washington's policy toward Beijing has been one of engagement and confrontation

With US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton making it clear that she will retire from politics despite Barack Obama's re-election as president, it is the right time to review her performance vis-a-vis China and the US diplomatic gains and losses during Obama's four years in office.

In the 2008 presidential nomination race, Clinton, as New York senator, lost narrowly to Obama, then Illinois senator. After being elected president, Obama appointed Clinton as secretary of state, who rallied to change former US president George W. Bush's interventionist foreign policy.

Obama entered the White House at a time when American prosperity and self-confidence had suffered heavy setbacks because of the global financial crisis and the war on terrorism. Even its claim as world leader had taken a battering.

Therefore, Obama's top priority was to pull the US out of the financial crisis, end the controversial war on terrorism as soon as possible, deepen economic and financial cooperation with major and emerging powers, and stabilize the situation in Iraq and Afghanistan with other countries' help. As a result, Obama adopted a more accessible foreign policy in his first year in office. He even appeared ready to talk with US "adversaries", such as Iran and Cuba, and seemed cordial toward China and Russia.

It was the best start for Sino-US relations after a new US president had taken office. The two countries started the US-China Strategic and Economic Dialogue in 2009, and Clinton traveled between the two countries, contributing greatly to the stability and development of bilateral relations, especially in the financial, economic and trade fields.

Sino-US relations reached a new level in the past four years. The heads of state of China and the US paid reciprocal state visits. In fact, Obama became the first US president to pay a state visit to China within one year of assuming office since the normalization of bilateral relations. The vice-presidents of the two countries, too, have paid mutual visits during the past two years.

Such unprecedented frequency of high-level exchanges was, to a large extent, the result of Clinton's efforts. And as head of the "100,000 Strong" initiative, a program designed to largely increase the number of American students in China, she joined hands with Chinese State Councilor Liu Yandong to promote bilateral people-to-people exchanges.

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