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Cover Stories Series 2011> Marching Toward Global Security> Archive
UPDATED: May 24, 2011 NO. 21 MAY 26, 2011
Building the Sino-U.S. Bridge
Mutual confidence is key to a cooperative relationship between China and the United States

BUILDING TRUST: U.S. President Barack Obama meets Chinese Vice Premier Wang Qishan and State Councilor Dai Bingguo in Washington, D.C. on May 9 (ZHANG JUN)

Generally, the two countries managed to strike a balance, as evidenced in the Sino-U.S. Comprehensive Framework for Promoting Strong, Sustainable and Balanced Growth and Economic Cooperation, a milestone document signed at the S&ED. If this positive trend continues, it will greatly contribute to sustainable economic development for both countries and an economic re-balancing between them.

Another highlight was the establishment of the Sino-U.S. Strategic Security Dialogue (SSD). The military relationship has always been a weak area of Sino-U.S. relations. The SSD aims to make up for this by providing a forum for the two countries to address security issues, such as nuclear safety and maritime security.

With the inauguration of the SSD, a security track was added to the S&ED, which was originally a dialogue with two tracks—a strategic track and an economic track. Now, the S&ED involves three teams—an economic team, a diplomatic team and a security team—from each country.

During the first SSD, the two sides reached a number of agreements, including the launch of bilateral consultations on Asia-Pacific issues as well as a visit by Chen Bingde, Chief of the General Staff of the People's Liberation Army, to the United States on May 15-22.

Both countries have great expectations on the future role of the SSD. Given the importance of the Asia-Pacific region and due to the two countries' all-round engagement with other countries in this region, they need to give proper consideration to a series of issues, including balancing interests, developing mutually inclusive cooperative mechanisms, managing conflicts and sharing prosperity. This will be essential for China and the United States to realize peaceful coexistence in the Asia-Pacific region.

In addition, the United States aspires to play a dominant role in the new frontier of sea, airspace, outer space and cyberspace governance. Therefore, on the one hand, it needs support from emerging countries like China; on the other hand, it finds it necessary to regulate these countries' actions. Given China's growing concern over security issues, it also needs to strengthen coordination and cooperation with the United States.

Notably, the S&ED produced positive progress in strengthening strategic mutual trust. The S&ED process provides an opportunity for China and the United States to discuss strategic and long-term topics. It helps them to eliminate suspicions and build strategic mutual trust through dialogue and cooperation.

At this year's S&ED, the two countries decided to expand cooperation and narrow differences while sticking to their own values and principles. During the dialogue, the U.S. side further showed respect for the Chinese way of thinking. Clinton described the development of Sino-U.S. relations with a Chinese saying—"like a person crossing a river by feeling his way over the stones." She called on the two sides to effectively manage their complicated bilateral relations and not to let slippery stones derail progress. U.S. Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner also quoted the Chinese saying, "share fortunes together, meet challenges together," to call for further cooperation between the two major players in the global economy.

Of course, the two sides' disagreements on issues such as human rights remained at the S&ED. But the fact that they could discuss these differences and make sure such differences did not interfere with the progress of other issues was a step forward.


For China and the United States, whether they can establish a relationship of common prosperity depends on whether they can build strategic mutual trust. The recent series of actions by the two countries were all conducted based on this goal.

For instance, the second round of the Sino-U.S. Consultation on People-to-People Exchange held in Washington, D.C. in April was aimed at this. The S&ED was aimed at this. The coming visits of U.S. Vice President Joe Biden to China and Chinese Vice President Xi Jinping to the United States will also aim to accomplish this task.

Frequent exchanges in a wide range of fields can contribute to a true cooperative partnership. However, this will not be easy. What China and the United States will create is a new type of partnership in the 21st century featuring long-term peace and cooperation between two countries with different political systems, ideologies, and stages of development. There is neither experience to learn from nor examples to follow. This is destined to be a complex and difficult process.

The author is deputy director of the Institute of American Studies of the China Institutes of Contemporary International Relations

The United States wants China to

- accelerate the appreciation of the renminbi

- open up financial markets

- treat U.S. companies fairly

- strengthen intellectual property protection

China wants the United States to

- pursue a responsible fiscal policy

- relax hi-tech export controls against China

- recognize China's market economy status

- treat Chinese investors fairly

- refrain from politicizing economic issues

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