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UPDATED: December 18, 2014 NO.47 NOVEMBER 20, 2014
Maintaining Momentum
Obama's China trip scores a host of unexpected achievements
By Yu Lintao

"If the high-standard bilateral investment treaty is finally made, it will be the first breakthrough over the tariff concession in the past 19 years within the WTO framework. It will probably help to increase people's confidence in the WTO-sponsored multilateral negotiation mechanism," said Jia.

Meanwhile, observers believe the new visa policy will enhance mutual understanding between Chinese and Americans.

"One of the major elements that make Sino-U.S. relations different from the U.S.-Soviet relations during the Cold War era is the close cultural and educational exchanges between China and the United States," said Da Wei, Director of the Institute of American Studies under the China Institutes of Contemporary International Relations (CICIR). "The new visa policy will greatly facilitate the exchanges between Chinese and U.S. people. People-to-people exchanges also serve as a major pillar of the stable Sino-U.S. relations together with strategic mutual trust and economic cooperation."

One day after the signing of the visa extension agreement, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry handed out the first visas valid for entry within 10 years to a group of Chinese citizens at a ceremony at the U.S. Embassy in Beijing.

Kerry told the Chinese citizens with the new visas and people at the ceremony, "You are literally helping to write the next great chapter of the history between the United States and China."

"This will pay huge dividends for American and Chinese citizens and it will strengthen both of our economies," Kerry added.

A new type of relationship

The choice of Xi and Obama to meet informally before their formal talks is an indication of their growing personal friendship, said Chinese observers. They also believe that the long list of agreements sealed during Obama's China trip may mark the beginning of real progress toward a new type of major-country relationship.

Jia said that the Beijing summit of Xi and Obama has offered people of the two countries new aspiration for the stable development of bilateral ties. If Washington seizes the momentum to further deepen cooperation with Beijing, it will certainly ensure the two countries are on the right track, according to Jia.

Proposing the concept of new-type relationship a year ago, Beijing has demonstrated its readiness to help it materialize in ways that will coincide with the interests of both countries and peoples. Despite their differences on a number of issues, Chinese leaders have repeatedly expressed the belief that the two countries can achieve mutual benefits if they choose to engage with and not estrange each other.

During the November 12 meeting with Obama, Xi outlined six priorities in building a new type of major-country relationship between China and the United States—improving exchanges and communication between high-level officials in a bid to improve strategic trust; respecting each other's sovereign and territorial integrity as well as political system and development path; deepening cooperation in all aspects; managing disputes and sensitive issues in a constructive manner; improving collaboration in the Asia-Pacific region; and jointly responding to regional and global challenges.

More importantly, Xi also stressed during the talks establishing "a new type of military relations" that suits the relationship between China and the United States.

During Obama's Beijing trip, defense departments of the two countries signed memorandums of understanding on establishing a mutual reporting mechanism on major military operations and a code of safe conduct on naval and air military encounters.

Jia said that the memorandums of understanding between the two defense departments are conducive to the deepening of mutual trust between the two militaries and reducing the risk of miscalculations that could spark conflicts.

Da held that a good military relationship is the key to the continued strengthening of China-U.S. relations. In the past, the so-called "China threat" has been overly hyped by the U.S. military for its expansion and staging troops in the Asia-Pacific region. A better military mutual understanding will likely minimize accidents, he said.

Observers said that it is high time for Obama, who is in the final two years of his presidency, to make concerted efforts with China to translate their shared vision of a major-country relationship into action, and leave a fine political legacy.

Professor Wang Yiwei of the Beijing-based Renmin University of China noted that Obama's Democratic Party lost seats in the latest midterm election—leaving the Democrats as the minority party in both chambers of Congress—which will make it much harder for Obama to push his domestic policies.

"If Obama still wants to score some achievements and leave behind a political legacy in the last two years of his term, he should put more emphasis on foreign affairs, seeking cooperation with China to promote the settlement of hot issues such as nuclear non-proliferation, the Middle East peace talks and so on," Wang said.

Email us at: yulintao@bjreview.com

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