Mutual trust tried and tested
Updated: 2014-07-12 07:54
By Tao Wenzhao (China Daily)
Strategic and Economic Dialogue lays solid foundation for the development of Sino-US relations, including military ties
The sixth China-US Strategic and Economic Dialogue and the fifth China-US High-Level Consultation on People-to-People Exchange concluded in Beijing on Thursday, with both sides saying the outcomes are a "full success". The latest round of dialogue and consultation, featuring candid and in-depth exchange of views and constructive management of differences, will help build a new type of major-power relationship between China and the United States.
The lack of mutual trust, the cause of all the ups and downs in Sino-US relations, is often manifested in the misjudgment of the two countries' strategic intent. President Xi Jinping got to the point in his speech when he said that the way China and the US perceive each other's strategic intentions will directly influence the policies they adopt and the development of bilateral ties, and therefore the two sides should not commit mistakes on this fundamental issue.
Mutual trust, however, cannot be deepened overnight. It is an undertaking that demands consistent efforts from both sides, particularly through strategic reassurance, to reduce misunderstandings and suspicion.
The annual dialogue and consultation have yielded positive results in the form of extensive agreements over a wide range of bilateral, regional and global issues. One of the breakthroughs is the formulation of a timetable for the Bilateral Investment Treaty talks, with the two sides agreeing to resolve core issues and finalize the major provisions of the BIT by the end of the year. And talks on the "negative list" which bars the two sides from investing in some sectors in each other's countries have been scheduled for early 2015.
That Beijing and Washington have expedited the BIT talks to reach an agreement at an early date is of great importance to the development of bilateral economic and trade ties and for deepening the interdependence between the two economies.
Another major breakthrough at the talks is the agreement between the two sides to develop bilateral military ties. The two countries will continue to hold joint exercises on counter-piracy, maritime rescue and humanitarian relief, and disaster reduction. Also, they will be committed to setting up at an early date a notification mechanism for major military activities, which will greatly facilitate the building of new type of relations between the two militaries.
Bilateral military ties gained prominence in overall Sino-US relations since the Sunnylands meeting between President Xi and his US counterpart Barack Obama in June last year, followed by frequent exchange of high-level visits between senior military officials and joint military exercises. The fact that China is taking part in the US-led Rim of the Pacific naval exercise for the first time signifies that Beijing and Washington are enjoying better military-to-military relations, which is unprecedented.
Moreover, the two countries handled their differences in a constructive way at the just concluded dialogue and consultation, thus reversing the so-called downward spiral in bilateral ties to which some observers attributed their differences over the South China Sea and East China Sea disputes.
During the S&ED, Beijing urged Washington to honor its previous commitments and view the maritime issues involving China in an objective and fair manner. Both sides have agreed to handle their differences constructively, which will have far-reaching consequences, because their differences, if not tackled properly, could lead to conflict of interests and even confrontation. But, if handled properly, the differences can be turned into potential for cooperation. This is an arduous task, though, which depends on the political will of the two sides. Now that they have reached an agreement, the two sides can adopt a detailed approach to the issue.
Obama will visit China to attend the APEC Economic Leaders' Meeting in November, and the latest round of dialogue and consultation has laid a solid foundation for the high-level Sino-US meeting and consequently the long-term development of bilateral ties.
The establishment of a new type of major-power relationship is an unprecedented cause which will have its share of difficulties and setbacks. But it is definitely a goal worth fighting for, because the two powers have a profound stake in peaceful coexistence and in each other's success.
The author is a senior research fellow at the Institute of American Studies, affiliated to the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences.