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US, China Mark 30 Years of Diplomatic Relations

January 1 marks the 30th anniversary of the establishment of Sino-American diplomatic ties, one of the most crucial bilateral relationships in the world. The event received little media attention in China, as the country's government waits to see how the incoming Obama administration will treat the Asian giant.

The main Chinese media dispatch marking the 30th anniversary of Sino-American relations Thursday came from Xinhua. The low-key commentary was titled "China-US relations on path toward greater progress."

The article said the two countries have made substantial progress in developing what it called a "constructive partnership." But it gave no details on where the relationship should go in the future.

Chinese President Hu Jintao did not mention the United States in his New Year's address, which was broadcast repeatedly on state television.

However, in a separate speech Wednesday, which also was broadcast extensively throughout China, President Hu talked about a related issue - Taiwan.

Mr. Hu says there can only be mutual political trust when Beijing and Taipei reach a common understanding of the so-called "one China" framework. As long as there is mutual
political trust, he says, anything can be discussed.

Washington established diplomatic relations with Beijing in 1979, only after it dropped ties with Taipei.

Taiwan has been separately-governed since the end of the Chinese civil war in 1949. China considers Taiwan part of Chinese territory and has vowed to use force, if necessary, to
keep the island from declaring independence.

Beijing-based American professor of Chinese affairs, Russell Leigh Moses, says the Taiwan issue has been one of the major distractions that have hindered better development of the
US-China relationship.

"I think there's too much of a focus perhaps on Taiwan, on Tibet, on momentary events that trigger problems, trigger troubles in the relationship. In fact, the relationship itself has to be re-thought," said Moses.

Moses says the future course of what he sees as the most crucial relationship in the world should not be based only on problem-solving. He says the two countries need to work out a
clear set of expectations, to avoid misunderstandings that can lead to confrontation.

"Too many times, we have, as the Chinese saying goes, "same bed, very separate dreams," he said. "Expectations are simply not the same. There has to be a very clear line drawn between what we'd like to do and how we want to get there, on both ends."

Moses says he thinks the dearth of Chinese media attention to the occasion has to do with Beijing's uncertainty about the new Obama Administration. He says the Chinese government is taking a wait-and-see attitude.

For Chinese scholars, one focus is how economically interdependent the United States and China have become.

Shi Yinhong, international studies professor at Beijing's Renmin University, says this is why he believes future Sino-American disputes will not involve Taiwan, but will instead focus on trade.

Shi says other potential issues of Sino-American conflict include human rights, Tibet and the environment.

The Chinese professor also voices another sentiment that is gaining in acceptance in China - namely that the financial crisis is further indication that the United States is declining. He says many believe that at the same time, China is rising, and so the Chinese government is interested in preventing any big domestic problems that could hinder the country's global ascent.