Governors' meeting sign of enhanced ties

Updated: 2011-07-14 11:08

By Zhang Wenzong (China Daily)

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BEIJING -The China-US Governors Forum, which provides local governments from China and the United States a means by which they can communicate, is a fortuitous bridge to develop the Sino-US partnership.

The forum, the culmination of talks between President Hu Jintao and US President Barack Obama in January, is the perfect example of how the relationship between the two nations is maturing.

There are more than 60 established sets of consultations between the two sides, such as the China-US Strategic and Economic Dialogue and the China-US Joint Commission on Commerce and Trade.

But by far, the governors' forum is the most expansive diplomatic effort between both nations at a more local level.

Local governments have been playing a more important role in the Sino-US relationship. There is a surging demand for communication among provinces, states, cities and towns. The launch of the China-US Governors Forum will likely boost communication among local governments.

The forum will also promote economic cooperation between China and the US. With the global economic recovery moving slower than expected, there is a stronger desire for both countries to enhance economic ties. The China-US Governors Forum can meet the countries' needs when economic opportunities are discussed.

The Obama administration is eager to put the American economy back on track by boosting exports and reviving its manufacturing industry with the help of foreign investments. At the same time, China's 12th Five-Year Plan (2011-2015) aims to boost domestic consumption and move from an export-led manufacturing economy to its emerging industries.

There are currently many opportunities for the two countries, but for any strategic cooperation to occur, both nations need the support from their local governments. Through the forum, local companies from both sides can locate projects to generate more jobs and revenue.

The forum can also help find solutions to issues that cannot be solved by a single local government. For example, the US is worried about its access to China's market and protection of its intellectual property rights. China, on the other hand, is worried about its outbound investments and protectionism measures from other countries. These subjects could and should be discussed during the forum.

Moreover, the forum will cement Sino-US diplomacy. As a major forum between local governments from China and the US, the forum will serve as an important part of "sub-national diplomacy", which will directly serve the local governments from both nations.

Compared with national diplomacy, sub-national diplomacy is more flexible and has a long-term influence on key local governors, therefore it will shape the future diplomatic policies in the two countries. Former US presidents, such as Jimmy Carter, Ronald Reagan and Bill Clinton, all have experience as governors. The background as a governor will more or less have impact on their decision-making process as a president.

The forum opens the door for direct communication between local governments on both sides, but future gains depend on the efforts of these local governments as well as the changing political winds.

China's direct investment in overseas markets jumped from less than $2 billion in 2004 to $60 billion in 2009. Direct investment from China to the US was approximately $5 billion in 2010.

Chinese companies have done business in more than 35 states in the US and have generated many jobs, but a number of Chinese projects in the US have been shelved due to many reasons.

One example is that a number of merger and acquisition cases have been rejected, which in turn has scared away many Chinese investors.

But now local governments in the US have used preferential policies to attract Chinese investors to conquer the high unemployment rate. China's huge domestic market and overseas investments have allowed the American economy to recover. A win-win outcome can be achieved from the forum. It is important for the US to grasp the opportunity brought by rising China.

The author is from the Institute of American Studies with the China Institutes of Contemporary International Relations.

China Daily


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