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UPDATED: May 14, 2012 NO. 20 MAY 17, 2012
Seeking Common Ground

The recently concluded fourth round of the China-U.S. Strategic and Economic Dialogue (S&ED) produced a wide range of positive outcomes.

Sixty-seven agreements were reached during the talks, jointly headed by Chinese Vice Premier Wang Qishan, State Councilor Dai Bingguo, and U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner, on issues such as trade, investment and financial cooperation.

Trade relations have always been one of the main focuses of the talks. As a result of the dialogue, China has pledged to continue the reform of its exchange rate regime and improve the business environment for U.S. companies based in China. The United States will speed examination and approval procedures for Chinese financial institutions investing in the United States. It also agreed to relax restrictions on civilian technologies and hi-tech exports to China.

The two sides also sought common ground on other contentious issues. They affirmed their support for establishing the China-U.S. Maritime Safety Dialogue Mechanism and holding its first dialogue this year. Another round of consultation on Asia-Pacific affairs and a human rights dialogue is scheduled later this year. They also exchanged views on the Korean Peninsula situation, Iran's nuclear program, Syria and Sudan-South Sudan conflicts.

More importantly, China and the United States agreed they must work together to forge a new type of power relationship centered on peaceful coexistence, benign competition and mutual benefit. This could be the most significant outcome yet achieved through the platform.

The new type of relationship will not be immune to differences or even conflicts of interest between China and the United States, which have different political systems, cultural backgrounds and development levels. But these should not hinder cooperation nor should a single incident or individual affect the overall relationship. The incident involving Chen Guangcheng, a self-taught blind lawyer who entered the U.S. Embassy in Beijing in late April and later tried to seek education in the United States, is one such example.

The S&ED is one of the mechanisms that facilitate the cooperation between the world's biggest developed nation and the world's biggest developing nation. Since its establishment in 2009, the talks have contributed to business cooperation. In the meantime, it has worked to dispel distrust and sought common ground between the two nations. With joint efforts planned across the Pacific, the scope and influence of the dialogue will continue to increase.

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