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Government Documents
UPDATED: August 13, 2012 NO.33 AUGUST 16, 2012
China-U.S. Relations in China's Overall Diplomacy in the New Era
On China and the United States Working Together to Build a New-Type Relationship Between Major Countries
By Cui Tiankai & Pang Hanzhao


China-U.S. bilateral relations take a special and important position in China's overall diplomacy. To maintain and promote a healthy and steady development of China-U.S. relations is a priority in China's foreign policy.

The goal of China's policy toward the United States is consistent with that of its national foreign strategy. If we say that the central goal of China's foreign strategy is to uphold its sovereignty, national security and development interests and seek a generally peaceful and favorable external environment for the great revitalization of the Chinese nation, then properly handling its relations with the United States is an important condition and requirement for realizing that goal. If we say that unswervingly taking the road to peaceful development is a strategic choice made by the collective leadership, the ruling party and the people of China, then a major issue to be successfully addressed for China's peaceful development is for China and the United States to develop a model of their bilateral relationship featuring cooperation not confrontation, win-win results not "zero-sum" game, and healthy competition not malicious rivalry, namely a new-type relationship between major countries.

China has made clear its political commitment to working with the United States for a new-type relationship between major countries. During the fourth China-U.S. Strategic and Economic Dialogues last May, President Hu Jintao elaborated on the importance of a new-type relationship between major countries to be jointly developed by China and the United States, a relationship that is reassuring to both the Chinese and American peoples and to the people across the world. He stressed that "we should prove that the traditional belief that big powers are bound to enter into confrontation and conflicts is wrong, and seek new ways of developing relations between major countries in the era of economic globalization." During his visit to the United States last February, Vice President Xi Jinping made it clear that the two countries should work together to build a new-type relationship between major countries in the 21st century and "set a good example of constructive and cooperative state-to-state relations for countries with different political systems, historical and cultural backgrounds and economic development levels, an example that finds no precedent and offers inspiration for future generations." How China and the United States should build and develop a new-type relationship has also been a central topic in State Councilor Dai Bingguo's many rounds of strategic dialogue with the United States, and, as the dialogue deepens, this theme has become more and more distinct and prominent.

China's strategic gesture and political signal have been echoed by the other side of the Pacific. President Barack Obama, Vice President Joseph Biden and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton have stated on many occasions that the United States welcomes a strong, prosperous and stable China that plays an even greater role in the world, that "China's rise isn't our (America's) demise" and that "the United States and China are building a new model for interaction between a rising power and an established power" and working jointly to "find a new answer to the ancient question of what happens when an established power and a rising power meet."

As a matter of fact, China and the United States started to explore a new-type relationship between major countries 40 years ago when President Richard Nixon visited China and leaders of the two countries jointly reopened the door of China-U.S. contacts. This endeavor reflects Comrade Deng Xiaoping's important conclusion that he made 23 years ago that "Sino-U.S.

relations must be improved." It reflects the 16-character guiding principle for China-U.S. relations President Jiang Zemin put forward during his meeting with President Bill Clinton in 1993, i.e. "enhance trust, reduce trouble, develop cooperation and avoid confrontation." It also reflects the common understanding that President Hu reached with President Obama during his visit to the United States in 2011 on working together to build a cooperative partnership based on mutual respect and mutual benefit. It is furthermore reflected in what the two sides have done together over the years, namely, their dialogue for fostering mutual trust, their communication for managing disputes and their cooperation for safeguarding common interests.

Complex and profound changes are taking place in the international landscape and the global economy as well as human society. It requires China to stick to its set path, commit to peace and cooperation and blaze a new path to revitalization of a big nation like none in the past. It requires China and the United States to reject the predestination notion and blaze a new path to a relationship between major countries that features peaceful coexistence and win-win cooperation. And it requires the world to follow the trend of economic globalization and political multi-polarity and blaze a new path toward diversity, tolerance, lasting peace and common prosperity. Where China-U.S. relations head for will factor significantly in the exploratory efforts in the above three aspects and bear on the future of the two countries and the whole world.


China-U.S. relations today have changed considerably compared with what they were when President Nixon visited China 40 years ago and when the two countries established diplomatic relations 33 years ago. Even the most pessimistic people have to recognize that the two sides have accumulated some strategic common understanding, a profound cooperation foundation and rich experience about how to get along with each other. All this has made it possible and feasible for the two sides to establish a more stable and reliable pattern of healthy interactions and initiate a new-type relationship between major countries.

First, the two countries have realized that win-win cooperation is the most common denominator for them to handle relations with each other under the new historic circumstances. That can be viewed as a most fundamental strategic agreement, building on the notion of "peace will benefit both whereas conflict will serve neither's interest" and providing a basis for the two sides to form strategic consensus or tacit agreement at a higher level in their future contacts. China and the United States are both confident nations, with a firm conviction that they are the masters of their own fate, and they should have due respect for each other. They have made it clear to each other in their public policy statements and private strategic communications that they have no territorial claims to each other, which has removed a principal root cause that used to cause confrontation and conflicts between traditional major countries. They both recognize that they need each other to realize their development and prosperity and they need to understand, respect and cooperate with each other in international affairs as they are in a changed era with greater interdependence. In the new era, they must work hard to avoid repeating the mistake of vicious rivalry among traditional major countries and avoid moving their bilateral relations to a lose-lose alley. Like it or not, that is an inevitable choice that serves the fundamental interests of both sides and the common interests of the international community.

Second, there have been a range of increasingly well-developed channels of dialogue and communication between the two countries, providing an institutional support for the steady development of bilateral relations. Recent years have seen high-level contacts between the two countries at a frequency never seen before. Since January 2009, President Hu and President Obama have had 12 meetings, seven telephone conversations and 34 exchanges of correspondence. Wu Bangguo, Chairman of the Standing Committee of the National People's Congress, and Premier Wen Jiabao respectively met with President Obama and other leaders of the United States on many occasions. Vice President Biden and Vice President Xi exchanged visits. The two sides have put in place over 60 dialogue and consultation mechanisms covering the whole spectrum of areas in the bilateral relationship, including the China-U.S. Strategic and Economic Dialogues (with Vice Premier Wang Qishan and State Councilor Dai Bingguo as special representatives of the Chinese president and Secretary of State Clinton and Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner as special representatives of the U.S. president), the High-Level Consultation on People-to-People Exchange (with State Councilor Liu Yandong and Secretary of State Clinton as the co-chairs), the Joint Commission on Commerce and Trade (with Vice Premier Wang talking to the U.S. treasury of commerce and the trade representative), and the Joint Commission on Science and Technology Cooperation. In addition, the two countries have established the heads-of-state hotline and foreign-minister hotline. Vice Premier Wang and Treasury Secretary Geithner have frequently communicated with each other over the phone. State Councilor Dai have had five small-group meetings with Secretary of State Clinton and three with National Security Advisor Thomas E, Donilon, all of which lasted longer than general official talks. All these frequent, diversified and institutionalized high-level exchanges have played an important part in building understanding, reducing misunderstanding and expanding cooperation, producing practical, fruitful and visible results and common understanding. Both sides have indicated their intention to continue their cross-departmental communication and coordination on a long-term basis.

Military-to-military relationship is an important part of China-U.S. relations. Progress has been made in the inter-military exchanges and cooperation between China and the United States in recent years. The two sides have had dialogues and communication on important issues related to enhancing mutual trust between the two countries and militaries through the Defense Consultative Talks, working meetings, the maritime military security consultation mechanism, direct telephone conversation between the Ministry of National Defense and the Department of Defense and other channels. The two sides have also carried out multi-level and multi-form exchanges involving diversified services such as China-U.S. Joint Maritime Search and Rescue Exercise, cooperation in searching the bodies of the U.S. military personnel missing in action and interactions between military academies and retired officers. The military relationship, however, has been impacted and disrupted from time to time by the U.S. arms sales to Taiwan and other problems. Some dialogues and exchanges were once suspended. The U.S. side must bear full responsibility for all this. The Chinese side has been promoting the military relations between the two countries. Vice President Xi called on the Pentagon during his visit to the United States last February, during which he made important points in guiding the sound development of the military relations. During his visit to the United States last May, State Councilor and Defense Minister Liang Guanglie expressed the Chinese intention to develop the bilateral military relations and contribute positively to the joint cause of the two countries to build a new-type relationship between major countries. He said, "We should chart the course of the development of our military relations in the 21st century from a broader strategic perspective and build a new-type military relationship of mutual benefit and win-win cooperation that is consistent with the development of the state relationship between the two countries." As long as the United States takes concrete steps to remove obstacles that have long been in the way of the military relations such as its arms sales to Taiwan and the DeLay Amendment, the military relations between the two countries will grow smoothly, which will contribute significantly to the building of a new-type relationship between China and the United States.

Third, the interests of the two countries have been unshakably and irreversibly intertwined. This pattern will continue and grow deeper. Business ties have become a key bond connecting China and the United States. The U.S. capital and technology have contributed importantly to the development in China and the United States has also gained handsome profit in return. China and the United States are now each other's second largest trading partners. The two-way trade totaled $446.6 billion in 2011, an increase of 182 folds compared with that immediately after the establishment of diplomatic relations. Every day, more than $1 billion worth of goods and services are traded between the two countries. China has been the fastest growing export market for the United States for 10 straight years. According to the United States-China Business Council, between 2001 and 2010, the U.S. export to China grew by 468 percent, whereas its export to other countries and regions as a whole only by 55 percent during the same period. About 4 million to 8 million jobs in the United States were directly related to its trade with China. The U.S. consumers saved more than $600 billion by purchasing Chinese products. By the end of 2011, the United States had invested 61,068 projects in China, with contracts worth $162.3 billion and already made $67.6 billion of investment. The report by the American Chamber of Commerce in China shows that over 60 percent U.S. enterprises in China enjoy a higher profit margin than the world average. Chinese companies have made $6 billion direct investment in non-financial sectors in the United States including industry, science and technology, agriculture, energy, insurance, transportation, etc.

Fourth, people-to-people exchanges have become an inexhaustible driving force for a sustained development of China-U.S. relations. Our two peoples have long cherished friendly sentiments toward each other and wish to see the two countries becoming friends, not enemies. They stood together at the anti-fascist united front. Stories such as the "Flying Tigers" are still being told widely in our two countries. The poll by Gallup in February showed that 13 percent Americans saw China as an ally and 63 percent believed that China and the United States were "friendly to each other, though not allies." According to the poll by the Committee of 100 in April, nearly 80 percent Chinese considered the United States as China's most important partner. There are 9,000 people traveling across the Pacific Ocean every day, about 200 flights every week and more than 3 million people every year. China and the United States have had 38 pairs of sister provinces/states and 176 pairs of sister cities established. There are as many as 100,000 Chinese and American students studying in the United States and China every year. About 300 million Chinese have learnt or are learning English. In the United States, over 1,000 universities offer Chinese courses and over 4,000 primary or secondary schools teach Chinese language with more than 200,000 learning Chinese language. The education institutions of the two countries have worked together and established more than 80 Confucius Institutes and more than 300 Confucius Classrooms in the United States. To build a new-type relationship between major countries conforms to the people's will.

Fifth, to continue to expand and deepen international coordination and cooperation is a basic requirement and important driving force for the two countries to pursue a new-type relationship between major countries. China and the United States, facing each other across the Pacific Ocean, are the biggest developing country and developed country respectively, and are both permanent members of the UN Security Council. Therefore they shoulder a major and unique responsibility in upholding regional and international peace, security and prosperity. The reopening of the door to diplomatic relations between the two countries 40 years ago was a result of the global vision of the leaders of the two countries in approaching bilateral relations. At present, our bilateral relations have an impact that goes far beyond the bilateral scope and has an increasingly deeper global significance. The two sides have carried out effective coordination and cooperation in addressing global challenges and non-traditional security threats ranging from responding to the international financial crisis, working for global economic recovery and growth, and upholding the international nonproliferation system to combating piracy, handling climate change and ensuring food and energy security. The two countries have agreed that their cooperation is indispensable, though unable, to solve all the problems in the world. State Councilor Dai pointed out at the fourth China-U.S. Strategic and Economic Dialogues that the two countries should form C2, not G2.

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