'US doesn't want to contain China'

Updated: 2012-02-07 08:24

By He Wei (China Daily)

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SHANGHAI - The United States has no interest or intention of encircling China in the Asia-Pacific region, and both countries have clear mutual interests in seeing the Six-Party Talks work more effectively, a former US diplomat said on Monday.

China and the US need to be in close contact to assure there are no misunderstandings "in a difficult era whose pace of change is unprecedented in human history", Christopher Hill, former US assistant secretary of state, told the International Conference in Commemoration of the 40th Anniversary of the Shanghai Communique.

Hill said that the US' return to Asia "has less to do with China, and much more to do with the fact that the Obama administration is disengaging from wars in the Middle East and South Asia".

Through rebalancing relationships with Southeast Asia, Hill noted, the US does not intend to make countries choose between the US and China, as Beijing is widely perceived as a vital engine for the economic development for these nations.

Richard Solomon, a witness to the signing of the Shanghai Communique four decades ago, said that then US president Richard Nixon's landmark visit to China in 1972 was "the week that changed the world".

The document "fundamentally changed the political dynamic of the Cold War - to the benefit of the security of both our countries. The decision to break out of two decades of confrontation is one of the few great diplomatic initiatives of the 20th century", Solomon, who now presides over the United States Institute of Peace, said at the event.

The significance of the policy was that in this confrontational environment, leaders from both countries took a far-sighted initiative to normalize relations, Solomon said.

But he pointed out that more endeavors are needed to reshape the new international environment to the mutual benefit of both sides.

"The US is rebalancing its presence in the Asia-Pacific region. But history tells us that 'equilibrium' or 'balance', if not well managed, can degenerate into confrontation. So there is the risk that we could again become adversaries," Solomon warned.

There are a number of well-institutionalized bilateral and international forums and dispute-management procedures for dealing with these issues - most notably the annual US-China Strategic and Economic Dialogue, he said.

Hill advocated that both countries address the lack of strategic trust through more consultations, so that "when the US and China have moments of disagreements, the military consultations will need to be continued".

Hill, who once headed the US delegation to the Six-Party Talks, said the situation on the Korean Peninsula should not be seen in the context of a zero-sum game, but rather in terms of a win-win situation.

On the economic front, Hill said China's economy is important to Americans in ways that the authors of the Shanghai Communique could only have dreamed about.

Bilateral trade rocketed to $500 billion by the end of 2011 from a mere $5 million 40 years ago. Data from the American Chamber of Commerce in Shanghai showed more than 7,000 US firms have established operations in Shanghai and 6,000 in the Yangtze Delta Region, the country's most robust business hub.

China Daily