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Cover Story
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UPDATED: June 17, 2013 NO. 25 JUNE 20, 2013
Setting the Tone
Informal summit bears unique significance for Sino-U.S. relations
By Yu Lintao

During the summit with Obama, President Xi summarized the concept in three phrases—"no conflict and no confrontation," "mutual respect" and "cooperation toward win-win results."

Observers said the building of a new type of relations is based on the highly interdependent relations and common interests among major powers.

"The current Sino-U.S. relationship, especially when it comes to economic and cultural exchanges, has far exceeded any bilateral relations between major powers in history. The incredible width and depth of this relationship have laid a solid foundation for this new type of relations," said Wang Jisi, Dean of the School of International Studies at Peking University.

Wang said the prospect of bilateral economic relations is quite promising as the two economies are highly complementary. He predicted the two countries would become the largest trade partner of each other within eight to 10 years.

Currently, the two countries are each other's second largest partner with bilateral trade amounting to about $484.7 billion in 2012.

Meanwhile, a joint research report titled U.S.-China Economic Relations in the Next Decade released in May said the milestone would be reached in 2022. One of the authors of the report said if the United States eases its restriction on exports of hi-tech products, oil and gas to China, its exports to China would increase more swiftly.

"The bilateral economic relationship has great potential. For instance, about 1.5 million Chinese tourists visited the United States in 2012. But if the U.S. side issues more visas to Chinese people, the number could reach 10 million in 10 years, which could bring in at least $5 billion for the United States," said Wang.

Wang added that potential bilateral economic cooperation in the agricultural sector is even greater, noting China is a huge market with a large population but less arable land, while the United States has a large arable land area and higher agricultural productivity.

Former U.S. Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson also stressed the common interests and highly intertwined economies of the two countries in an article on the Xi-Obama meeting titled The Path to Double Happiness recently published on the website of The Wall Street Journal, saying, "It is important that the two presidents seize this moment to reinvigorate their shared economic agenda."

Paulson noted that China is America's fastest growing export market. When worldwide U.S. exports plummeted almost 18 percent during the 2009 financial crisis, exports to China dropped only about 2.5 percent. The figures demonstrate China's potential to become a demand driver for U.S. products over the long haul and the degree to which their economies are intertwined. He said the highly mutual interdependence has deeply touched the lives of ordinary Americans and Chinese.

Ruan claimed the fundamentally changed global situation also pushed China and the United States into a community of shared interests.

Ruan said that in the current world, neither China nor the United States can settle all international problems. Only by joining hands can they overcome difficulties, address crises and create opportunities for their common development.

During the summit, Obama told Xi the U.S. side is willing to construct a new state-to-state cooperation model with China based on mutual benefit and mutual respect, so as to jointly meet various global challenges.

From another perspective, Ruan noted, the driving force for closer Sino-U.S. relations has undergone fundamental changes.

"Nixon's ice-breaking visit to China, which helped the two countries reengage with each other, was initially driven by outside pressure, including the international strategic structure and the threat of the Soviet Union," said Ruan. "But now Sino-U.S. relations are increasingly driven by domestic demands of the two countries, such as economic cooperation."

An arduous path

Analysts said that gaps, differences and disputes undeniably persist between China and the United States, such as trade friction, discriminatory and opaque investment policies of the United States and cyber security issues. Therefore, they claimed it would be a long, arduous and complicated task for the two countries to build a new type of relations. However, most observers are not pessimistic.

"There are disputes, but we can see in the summit that both leaders agreed to settle the problems through negotiations. I think it is a very important consensus they have reached," said Qu.

Ruan said disputes could also be turned into cooperation opportunities, noting that both China and the United States are trying to turn the common challenge of cyber security into an area of cooperation.

At this summit, Xi told Obama that cyber security should be a new highlight of bilateral cooperation instead of a source of suspicion and friction. They agreed to strengthen dialogue, coordination and cooperation through the already established cyber working group.

During their talks, the two presidents also pledged to strengthen military cooperation. It was agreed that the Chinese defense minister will visit the United States and China will attend the U.S.-hosted Rim of the Pacific exercises in 2014.

"The military relationship is a weak point in bilateral relations. It is a positive signal that Obama proposed this time to institutionalize bilateral military communication," said Tao.

Ruan claimed the U.S. move for military cooperation reflected a new way of thinking, indicating there would be new steps to be taken in bilateral military relations. An institutionalized military relationship would provide a guarantee for the new type of bilateral ties.

Email us at: yulintao@bjreview.com

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