Sino-U.S. diplomatic relations over the past thirty years have had their ups and downs. But Minister Xie Feng, China's Deputy Chief of Mission to the United States, is optimistic about the future. He shared his positive outlook, and touched on the possible sticking points, at a roundtable discussion at The Nixon Center on Tuesday.
China and the United States are moving closer together. As Minister Xie noted, China is committed to a long-term relationship with the United States, peaceful development and being a part of the international community, evidenced of late by their dedication to the Olympics. But the United States must meet China in the middle. And he stressed the necessity of keeping domestic politics out of the relationship, especially when it comes to U.S. elections.
Minister Xie's optimism for the future comes in part from the experiences of the past. Take the frequency of high-level exchanges between U.S. and Chinese government leaders. In the last seven years, the presidents alone have met sixteen times.
And the nature of the bilateral relationship has been clearly defined, helping the progress along. The presidents of both countries have made a commitment to working to improve cooperation. Minister Xie noted that to President Bush and President Hu Jintao, their countries are "not only stakeholders, but also constructive partners."
That cooperation has been increasingly expanding in many areas, like trade, investment and counterterrorism. China and the United States are now each other's second-largest trading partner. The two powers form the "twin engines of the global economy," according to Minister Xie. And growth in exports across almost all of the United States has increased at a greater rate than to anywhere else in the world.
Plus, the geostrategic importance of the relationship is not only acknowledged by both sides, but also by the international community as a whole. Ties between the two countries have proven, and can continue to prove, useful on issues like North Korea and Iran, and in dealing with other common interests like the environment.
Despite this rosy picture, Minister Xie acknowledged that there are differences between the two countries that could affect progress. And international events and domestic issues can always disrupt the best-laid plans and intentions.
One of the potentially greatest points of conflict is Taiwan. Minister Xie said there is good momentum in Taiwan and China toward peace, though. Positive steps are being made; both sides are interested in finding a solution to the problem. And again stressing the reciprocity of the U.S.-China relations, he noted that the Chinese government hopes America will remain committed to it's "One China" policy.
Reciprocity is also necessary in the Chinese government's relationship with the Dalai Lama, according to Minister Xie. Government officials met with representatives of the Dalai Lama on May 4 in the city of Shenzen. The talks didn't result in any solid steps forward, but the government reiterated its offer of open dialogue and the sincerity of their commitment to finding a solution to the issue. That is, as long as the Dalai Lama's side is also sincere.
The state, Minister Xie pointed out, has remained consistent in this stance. Echoing other statements that have come from China, Minister Xie said the Dalai Lama's side is responsible for disrupting the process. Those disruptions have come in the form of undermining the well-being of both the Chinese and Tibetan people by inciting violence and attempting to sabotage the Olympics. Many in the United States and the rest of the world have taken issue with and raised questions about the Chinese government's handling of the Tibet protests and dealings with the Dalai Lama.
But differences are expected between two such powers, and even more so between two states that have such varied cultures, traditions and levels of development, according to Minister Xie. And he remains confident that there is much more common ground between China and the United States than potential room for conflict.
Rebecca N. White is an apprentice editor at The National Interest.