Thirty years ago a young American came to Beijing to see his father who headed the U.S. liaison office. He rode a bicycle through nearly every hutong and celebrated his 29th birthday in the city. Recently, this American, who is now the president of the United States, again appeared in Beijing and relived the old experience by riding a bicycle. Reminiscing on a TV interview, he described his experience as "fantastic."
This time, George W. Bush came to Beijing not just to see his father George H.W. Bush, a former U.S. president who came to Beijing ahead of the son for a series of forums related to Sino-U.S. relations, but to represent the American people at the highest-level meetings with Chinese leaders.
Bush came to Beijing on November 19 after attending the APEC meetings in Busan, South Korea. Beijing was the third leg of his Asian tour after Japan and South Korea. From Beijing he flew to Ulan Bator for his first visit to the State of Mongolia.
He wrapped up his Beijing tour and boarded his Air Force One on the morning of November 21, putting an end to his 40-hour visit to China, which, according to Chinese Foreign Ministry Spokesman Kong Quan, achieved "important results."
"It is very important to maintain constant high-level dialogues between China and the United States," said Kong, hoping that dialogue between leaders of the two countries and contacts and consultations at various levels would help expand common interests and promote mutually beneficial cooperation in various fields, so as to realize common development and contribute to the world peace and stability.
Bush held talks with Chinese President Hu Jintao, their fifth meeting this year, and Premier Wen Jiabao, on various topics ranging from bilateral trade, human rights and intellectual property rights (IPR) protection to avian flu and United Nations reform.
"Some topics have surpassed bilateral relations. The two countries start their cooperation at the global level, such as denuclearization on the Korean Peninsula and bird flu," Fu Mengzi, Director of the Institute of American Studies of the China Institutes of Contemporary International Relations, told Beijing Review, adding that there is currently no serious and urgent problem in the Sino-U.S. relationship.
According to Fu, the Taiwan issue is the most complicated issue between China and the United States. But the two countries have common interests and both would benefit from a stable cross-strait situation.
"Bilateral trade is a key part since this sector has become the ballast in the development of bilateral relations," said Xiao Lian, Director of the Center for American Economic Studies of the Institute of World Economics and Politics under the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences (CASS), in an interview with Beijing Review.
According to Xiao, Sino-U.S. economic and trade development goes beyond their political and ideological differences. "The period when their arguments in political and ideological fields become fierce is just the time when the economic and trade cooperation between them maintains fast development," Xiao noted. Fu said bilateral trade is comparatively more conspicuous because of the trade imbalance.
Early this month, the two sides reached a three-year compromise on China's textile export after several rounds of negotiations. The United States will resume its quota system for Chinese textile exports, temporarily ending the trade conflict between the two countries.
Just before Bush's Asian tour, the U.S.China Economic and Security Review Commission submitted a 222-page annual report to Congress on November 9, estimating that the U.S. deficit with China could rise by 27 percent to hit a record $206 billion in 2005 and asked Congress to push the Treasury Department to maintain a high level of pressure on China for Renminbi (RMB)'s revaluation. "China also realizes the unbalanced trade and takes constructive attitudes and adopts concrete measures to balance the trade," Fu said.
On November 20, when Bush was still in China, U.S. aerospace giant Boeing signed a mega deal worth $4 billion to supply 70 aircraft to eight Chinese airlines, one of the biggest purchases in China's civil aviation history.
In the past several years, China and the United States have cooperated in various fields such as anti-terrorism, nuclear non-proliferation, denuclearization on the Korean Peninsula and transnational criminal. Bilateral economic cooperation has also grown rapidly. According to statistics from the Chinese side, in 2004, trade volume between the two countries reached $169.6 million and the figure is expected to exceed $200 billion this year. China is now the third largest trading partner of the United States and its fastest growing export market. The United States is China's second largest trading partner.
Experts say economy and trade will remain important among core links between Beijing and Washington in the long term. But it is also the one with many complications. On the one hand, the United States wants a significant share of the Chinese market and thus has made efforts to boost bilateral industrial integration. On the other, U.S. industry and commerce are dissatisfied with China's imperfect market economy system and are not fully prepared to China's impetus in its foreign trade. This is the reason behind the frequent conflicts in bilateral trade, the exchange rate with RMB and the IPR.
"It is normal for China and the United States to have frequent economic frictions and it will be a long-term phenomenon for the two countries to witness both cooperation and economic bickering," said Xiao from the CASS.