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China-US Relations Forge Ahead on New Course

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July 27 is poised to be remembered as a significant date in the history of China-US relations because that is the day when the two countries start their high-level Strategic and Economic Dialogue in Washington.

The dialogue marks a major step toward forging a positive, cooperative and comprehensive China-US relationship in the 21st century as agreed upon in London by Chinese President Hu Jintao and US President Barack Obama in an April meeting.

The two-day dialogue, which will cover not only bilateral matters but also regional and global topics of common concern, is widely seen as one of the latest signs of the steady growth of China-US relations despite a recent change of leadership in the White House.

As Chinese Vice Foreign Minister He Yafei put it at a press conference on Wednesday, China-US relations have experienced a smooth transition period and enjoyed a steady growth since Obama's inauguration, as a result of concerted efforts by both sides.

Unlike her predecessors who often bypassed China during their first foreign sojourns, US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton visited Beijing in February during her maiden overseas trip. She stated several times during the trip that Washington remains committed to pursuing a "positive" relationship with China.

Obama a few weeks later received Chinese Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi at the White House, in his first official meeting with another country's foreign minister.

Initial direct contacts between Beijing and the Obama administration went well and paved the way for the first face-to-face talks between Hu and Obama in London.

Meeting on the sidelines of the G20 summit in April, Hu and Obama agreed to build a "positive, cooperative and comprehensive" China-US relationship through joint efforts, charting a new course for bilateral ties.

They also announced the establishment of the higher-level China-US Strategic and Economic Dialogue to replace the previous strategic dialogue and economic dialogue.

The new dialogue will serve as an important platform for both sides to deepen their mutual understanding, trust and cooperation.

The dialogue's strategic track will be chaired by Chinese State Councilor Dai Bingguo and Clinton. The economic track will be chaired by Chinese Vice Premier Wang Qishan and US Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner.

The mechanism, along with more than 60 others, attests to the "institutionalization" of dialogue and cooperation between China and the US, David Shambaugh, a China expert at George Washington University, told the China Youth Daily.

Aside from the Hu-Obama summit, the past six months have also witnessed frequent exchanges between China and the US on other levels and closer cooperation on a wide range of issues.

In May alone, three US Congressional delegations, including one led by US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, visited China. Geithner was in the country from May 31 to June 2.

Dai met with Obama in L'Aquila, Italy, in early July on behalf of Hu. In mid-July, US Commerce Secretary Gary Locke and Energy Secretary Steven Chu, the two Chinese-American members of the US cabinet, made a joint trip to China.

Since Obama took office, Chinese Vice Foreign Minister He Yafei said, China and the US have shown the world a strong signal by cooperating closely in dealing with the global financial crisis.

The two countries have also made achievements in their cooperation in the fields of economy and trade, the fight against terrorism, law enforcement, science, education, culture and health.

Meanwhile, both countries have significantly expanded the scope of their bilateral cooperation to include more multilateral issues.

As Shambaugh pointed out, the China-US relationship is "no longer merely bilateral," it has become "more and more internationalized."

Since the start of 2009, the two countries have effectively consulted on such major international and regional matters as the Iranian nuclear question, the nuclear issue on the Korean peninsula, energy security, and climate change.

These matters, including the resumption of the six-party talks on the Korean peninsula's nuclear issue, are also on the agenda of the upcoming dialogue.

Despite differences on certain issues, China-US relations are expected to continue developing in the second half of this year as greater cooperation has become a consensus of both countries, observers say.

Obama has accepted Hu's invitation to visit China later this year. The president's visit is expected to lift bilateral relations to a new height.

(Xinhua News Agency July 27, 2009)