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China Stresses It Must Work With US

U.S. Secretary of Defense Robert Gates meets with China's President Hu Jintao, Beijing, Jan 11, 2011
U.S. Secretary of Defense Robert Gates meets with China's President Hu Jintao, Beijing, Jan 11, 2011

China is emphasizing to foreign diplomats that it takes the relationship with the United States seriously and that the two countries will work together. Vice Foreign Minister Cui Tiankai told more than 100 foreign diplomats in Beijing that closer China-U.S. cooperation is good for the two countries and good for the rest of the world.

He said last year, the world paid too much attention to "the bad news in the bilateral relationship." He said this, in turn, led to questions of whether China and the United States can stay on what he described as "the course of cooperation."

Cui says the answer to that question should be an unequivocal and emphatic yes - that China and the United States have no other choice but to cooperate.

On the sidelines of the same gathering, Wang Jisi, the dean of Peking University’s School of International Studies, described this pragmatic working relationship.

Wang says the China-U.S. relationship cannot be seen in terms of friendship or hostility, but is a matter of communal interests. He says there the two countries share interests in trade and commerce, and in the world, so should not let disputes overshadow cooperation.

Chinese President Hu Jintao leaves Tuesday for a state visit to Washington. There he is expected to discuss most of the major irritants in China’s relationship with the United States.

Another scholar, Tao Wenzhao with the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, says that one of the most important issues in the relationship is Taiwan, a separately governed island China considers part of its territory.

Tao says Taiwan is still, in his words, "a big" issue. He says in the past, China considered Taiwan the most sensitive matter in China-U.S. relations.

China has not renounced the use of force to reunify Taiwan if it declares independence, and has hundreds of missiles pointed at the island. Washington has vowed to help Taiwan defend itself, and repeatedly angers Beijing by selling arms to the island.

Other contentious issues include human rights, and many critics saying China abuses rights by cracking down on dissidents and free speech.

Earlier this week in Washington, Michael Green, at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, pointed out that President Barack Obama will host a state visit with the leader of a country that is imprisoning a Nobel Peace laureate, jailed dissident Liu Xiaobo.

"So, that’s an extremely awkward juxtaposition, to say the least, and the administration made a very hard effort to deal with this," Green said.

One of the main issues between the two countries will be the huge trade imbalance, which is billions of dollars in China’s favor.

The Center for Strategic and International Studies’ Charles Freeman says U.S. companies have concerns about access to the Chinese market. He says Americans are hoping for big commercial deals as a result of President Hu’s trip.

"And that really hasn’t panned out to date," said Freeman. "And it looks, with just a few days left before the visit, that it’s going to be very difficult to put in place a very significant order that the administration can point to and say, look, see, China equals trade, equals jobs -- in a good way."

Greater Sino-American cooperation on security and weapons proliferation issues also is expected to be on the agenda. North Korea and Iran are suspected of trying to build nuclear weapons. While Beijing says it does not want to see nuclear weapons spread, it has resisted U.S. efforts to impose tougher sanctions on Pyongyang and Tehran.