Sunday, February 22, 2009

Article - New era for Sino-US ties

New US Secretary of State believes the two countries will lead the world out of crisis
By Peh Shing Huei, China Bureau Chief (ST 22 Feb 2009)

Beijing - Visiting United States Secretary of State Hillary Clinton yesterday hailed the beginning of a 'new era' for US-China relations, a partnership which she believed would lead the world out of the economic crisis.

Making it clear that saving the economy and slowing climate change take precedence over issues such as human rights and Tibet, she struck a conciliatory tone towards Beijing as she zipped around the Chinese capital on her maiden trip here as America's top diplomat.

China, with foreign exchange reserves of about US$2 trillion (S$3 trillion), is the world's largest holder of US government debt.

'I appreciate greatly the Chinese government's continuing confidence in United States Treasuries. I think that's a well grounded confidence,' Mrs Clinton said. 'We have every reason to believe that the United States and China will recover and that together, we will help to lead the world recovery.'

She added: 'We have to look inward for solutions, but we must also look to each other to take a leadership role in designing and implementing a coordinated global response to stabilise the world's economy and begin recovery.'

Making her final stop in China in a week-long Asian tour that also took her to Japan, Indonesia and South Korea, she stressed repeatedly in her meetings with top Chinese leaders - including President Hu Jintao and Premier Wen Jiabao - that the US and China have to work together to tackle major global challenges.

It was a much softer stance compared to her 1995 speech here in which she strongly criticised China's human rights record.

'As we start the new administration of President Barack Obama, we want to deepen and broaden our relationship,' she said at a joint media conference with Chinese Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi. 'We believe we have established a solid foundation but there is much work to be done.'

She confirmed that the Obama administration would prefer high-level dialogues with China on two tracks - strategic and economic. It is a departure from the Bush years, when negotiations with China focused largely on the economy. US Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner will take charge of the economic issues, while she will look at the strategic aspects, which cover political, security and global issues.

Mrs Clinton, who ends her three-day trip here today after attending a church service, added that they will be 'fully engaged' in this dialogue which will take fuller shape in the weeks to come.

Mr Hu welcomed the broadening of high-level dialogues, saying that China-US relations are among the most important bilateral ties in the world in the 21st century, reported the official Xinhua news agency.

He added that by making Asia her first stop, Mrs Clinton was signalling the importance of China and Asian countries to the US. He warmly welcomed Mr Obama to visit China as soon as possible.

'It is significant that she said the US and China will lead the world to economic recovery,' said international relations expert Yan Xuetong. 'She didn't say that about Japan when she was there.

'It is clear that the US regards China as the second most important economy. I believe she was speaking her mind and not just trying to curry favour with China.'

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Questions to consider

  1. Why is US so eager to improve ties with China and vice versa?
  2. What are the core concerns of both the US and Chinese leadership?
  3. To what extent do recent developments reflect an improvement in Sino-US ties?
  4. What are some of the long-standing issues that remain unresolved and what is their significance in terms of impact on US-China relations?

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