Strategic dialogue needs to inject positive energy into Sino-US relations | 作者: Gong Ting | 时间: 2015-06-25 | 责编: 李敏捷
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The seventh round of US-China Strategic and Economic Dialogue will get underway in Washington DC on July 23-24. Since it began in 2009, the dialogue has been widely regarded as a platform for systematic communication about strategic, long-term, global issues as well as annual development of bilateral relations for both countries. As a high-level mechanism, second in importance only to mutual visits by heads of state, this year's dialogue, like previous dialogues, involves many departments, covers broad issues and is also widely expected to achieve positive results, thus laying a good foundation for President Xi Jinping’s visit to the United States in September.

However, the biggest difference about this dialogue compared to previous dialogues is that Sino-US relations are more complex in all dimensions, alongside changes in the absolute and relative strengths and a deepening competitive and cooperative bilateral, regional and global relationship. There are heated discussions among policy-makers and the public on whether Sino-US relations are at a critical point.

Firstly, both leaderships have confirmed they are building a new type of major-country relations, and there is still potential and space for both sides to seek common ground.

After meetings by the new top leaders of China and the US, the two sides have reached a consensus that the two countries shall remain keen to avoid the Thucydides Trap of confrontation between a rising power and an established power. The two countries recognize the principle of “no conflict, no confrontation.” However, the leadership of China and the US, their government departments, policy-making circles and the public still enjoy different understandings on this path to a new type of relations between big powers. There is still space to bridge differences on how to implement mutual respect and win-win cooperation. Specifically, both sides have different concerns in the principles to be followed in the realization of mutual respect and obligations and both focus on different topics and areas for promoting pragmatic cooperation.

There is thus still a long way to go to promote progress in new-power relations between China and the US. Whether dialogue can contribute incrementally to expanding the intersection of mutual interest will also become a focus.

Secondly, the awareness and ability to manage differences and crises will be enhanced and improved amid rising negative unexpected incidents and interference by third-party factors in bilateral relations.

During the US visit by Fan Changlong, Vice Chairman of China’s Central Military Commission, the two sides have made progress in a mutual notification mechanism for major military operations, an army exchange mechanism and rules of behavior for the safety of air and maritime encounters, especially air encounters. This demonstrated China and the US are sincere and willing to make up for weaknesses in bilateral relations through construction of control mechanisms. Of course if the two sides fail to control differences and friction in the most concentrated areas of focus of potential competition and contradictions such as bilateral military ties, maritime safety, the South China Sea, cyberspace security and other issues, there is still a possibility of things escalating or even running out of control.

It is reported that during the fifth round of strategic security dialogue, the two sides will also hold a special session themed “protection of the ocean.” This indicates that the two sides are actively exploring specific measures to narrow strategic analysis and this strategic dialogue field will also be a highlight of the overall dialogue.

Thirdly, mutual dependence of Sino-US economic and trade relations and their "ballast stone" effect are further deepened. A series of sensitive issues remain to be handled properly. Meanwhile, China and the US also face the problem of how to coordinate and develop bilateral relations in regional trade, multilateral finance and other systems.

In 2014, bilateral trade volume between China and the US exceeded $550 billion. China has become the second-largest trade partner of the US, the third-largest export market and the largest source of imports. As of the end of 2014, all kinds of two-way investment between China and the US exceeded $120 billion. The US ranked sixth in foreign direct investment in China and has become China's third-largest destination for foreign direct investment. In recent months, China has continuously increased its holdings of US Treasury securities and is still the largest holder of US debt.

However, both sides remain divided on the Negative List of Bilateral Investment Treaties. The special drawing right of Renminbi to join the International Monetary Fund will also be a hot spot. It is reported that China and the US will hold a special meeting focusing on strengthening strategic dialogue and enhancing the level of economic cooperation between China and the US. They will focus on three major issues of macroeconomic policies and structural reforms, promoting trade and investment, financial market stability and reform. As an important innovation since the establishment of the dialogue mechanism, both sides will conduct strategic discussions on important issues concerning the economies of China and the US.

China leads and drives Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) negotiations and the US leads and drives the Trans-Pacific Partnership(TPP). China’s promotion of cooperation on the Belt and Road initiative, its launch of the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank and other initiatives show that interaction between the two countries in the Asia-Pacific trade and multilateral development financial system is increasingly close. How to realize open, healthy or even cooperative interaction instead of exclusive competition will be the problem that the leadership of both sides have to think about for achieving the Free Trade Area of the Asia-Pacific and improving Asia-Pacific interconnection levels.

In addition, China and the US will negotiate on the United Nations, multilateral affairs, science and technology and innovation, green port and ship and fighting illegal trade in wild animals and plants. The two sides will also show a more pragmatic and specific attitude towards seeking cooperation and a winning situation.

Looking back, dialogue has achieved more than 700 concrete results. Looking forward, the list of achievements that can be achieved by this dialogue will inject positive energy for enhancing strategic mutual trust between the two sides and further promoting progress of new power relations between China and the US.  

The author is from the Department for American Studies, China Institute of International Studies


Source:, June 24, 2015.