Carter lauds progress, asks patience

Updated: 2013-11-12 11:59

By Trevor Williams in Atlanta (China Daily USA)

  Print Mail Large Medium  Small 分享按钮 0

As they seek to develop a new model of bilateral ties, China and the United States should lead the way on "big-picture" issues rather than dwelling on minor differences, a panel of dignitaries said at the Forum on US-China Relations in Atlanta.

That should start with climate change, said former US President Jimmy Carter, the namesake of the Carter Center, where the event was held Monday.

If China and the US - the world's two biggest economies and polluters - were able to harmonize their efforts to fight global warming, Europe and the rest of the world would follow, Carter said, citing conversations at a gathering of former world leaders in South Africa last month.

"The entire process of dealing with global warming has broken down, and I think this would be a notable and a noble bilateral commitment for our two presidents, our two foreign ministers," Carter said.

The US and China often find it hard to work together, considering the differences in their environmental challenges, cultures, economic priorities and political systems, added Carter, who presided over the normalization of relations between the US and China in 1979.

"These things are inherent and they're not going to change," he said. "We can't move one country to another."

He noted that the architect of China's reform and opening up, Deng Xiaoping, was always cautious about enacting wide-ranging reforms too quickly. Instead of being frustrated by the pace of change in China, American policy makers should hone in on a few key areas of common interest, Carter said.

President Barack Obama and Chinese President Xi Jinping pledged to do just that during their meeting in Sunnylands, California in June.

Their momentum has been amplified by talk of economic reforms that Xi is expected to introduce at the third plenum of the Chinese Communist Party's 18th central committee meeting this week.

To make sure the US and China can work together to overcome differences and enhance cooperation, leaders must think ahead, Zbigniew Brzezinski, who was President Carter's national security adviser, said on the panel.

Domestic issues in both countries could spark simmering nationalistic zeal, threatening the stability of the relationship. In an age characterized by political turmoil as societies gain increasing access to information, the key is working together on issues that go beyond the scope of economic ties, he said.

"We have to strive to infuse increasingly significant strategic content into our relationship," Brzezinski said, citing China's constructive participation in US efforts to curb North Korea's nuclear ambitions.

These national policy moves must be underpinned by personal relationships fostered through people-to-people exchanges, said Li Xiaolin, president of the Chinese People's Association for Friendship with Foreign Countries.

Carter highlighted the fact that 235,000 Chinese students are now studying in the United States, according to figures released this week in the Open Doors report of the Institute of International Education.

"That makes my heart beat a little bit faster, that makes my face flush and makes me feel a little bit proud," the former president said.

For China Daily

(China Daily USA 11/12/2013 page1)