Understanding key to Sino-US relations

Updated: 2012-10-29 01:50

By ZHANG YUWEI in New York and ZHOU WA in Beijing (China Daily)

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Resolving major international issues requires 'close cooperation'

Understanding the Sino-US relationship is essential to Washington's interests, said Stephen Orlins, president of the National Committee on United States-China Relations, which will conduct the sixth annual China Town Hall at 60 sites around the country on Monday.

The committee, which advocates strong Sino-US ties, will present a live webcast from Beijing by US Ambassador to China Gary Locke, including a question-and-answer session moderated by Orlins. Each local site will follow up with a live panel discussion on China-US issues.

"Understanding the Sino-American relationship is essential to developing and maintaining a sound US policy that serves our country's interests," Orlins said.

"The major transnational issues of today and tomorrow, such as climate change, energy security, financial system stability, public health, weapons proliferation, piracy, terrorism and world peace, as well as bilateral issues including trade and job creation, require close cooperation with China if they are to be resolved successfully," he said.

Relations with China have been a hot topic during the US presidential race, and on Monday — just eight days before Election Day — the live, town hall-style presentation will highlight issues affecting the world's top two economic superpowers.

The China Town Hall is a program designed to provide people across the US and beyond the opportunity to discuss issues on China-US relations with leading experts.

The on-site panels that follow the webcast from Beijing will focus on a range of topics, including the impact of this summer's Midwest drought on agricultural trade and food prices in China and lessons from the fall of the last imperial Chinese dynasty 100 years later. The experts and scholars at each town hall site will also discuss the upcoming US presidential election and China's upcoming Party congress.

Issues discussed by each panel and during the webcast will be very specific and closely follow the situation in Chinese society, said Da Wei, a researcher on American studies at China Institutes of Contemporary International Relations.

The program will help US citizens understand China better, and it will be especially beneficial for owners of small and medium-sized enterprises who want to do business with China.

"We created this program in the belief that US-China relations are the defining relationship of the 21st century and that getting the relationship right is the key to peace and stability," Orlins said.

Bringing the China Town Hall to local audiences, he said, is intended to elevate discourse that, during the US presidential campaign, "has lacked depth and nuance".

Even as US-China relations grow in prominence and complexity in the 21st century, affecting the entire world, the campaign has supplied a lot of harsh talk about China.

Rallying supporters in Ohio last month, President Barack Obama announced his administration's complaint to the World Trade Organization against Chinese government subsidies for automobiles and auto parts.

Obama's Republican challenger, Mitt Romney, has promised to label China a "currency manipulator" on his first day as president. Romney, who touts his business background and who some experts believe would prove to be pragmatic in dealing with China, has also expressed concerns over China's multibillion-dollar trade surplus with the US.

Despite the rhetoric, bilateral ties are "much more complicated and much stronger than it appears", said Zhu Zhiqun, a professor of political science at Bucknell University in Pennsylvania.

"The US-China relationship is marked by both competition and cooperation," he said. "US politicians often prefer to highlight the competitive nature of the relationship, and China-bashing has become part of US electoral politics.

"In the long term, the two countries will have to face the reality that their two economies are highly complementary and interdependent. The problems they face now are more structural than political."

Contact the writers at yuweizhang@chinadailyusa.com and zhouwa@chinadaily.com.cn