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Xi and Obama all for confrontation-free ties

Publication Date : 10-07-2014


Amid tensions over cyber security issues and regional territorial disputes, Chinese President Xi Jinping and United States President Barack Obama have stressed the need to handle properly differences as part of their commitment towards forging a confrontation-free relationship.

"The US and China will not always see eye to eye on every issue. That is to be expected for two nations with different histories and cultures," said Obama in a statement released at the annual Strategic and Economic Dialogue (SED), which opened yesterday.

"It is also why we need to build our relationship around common challenges, mutual responsibilities, and shared interests, even while we candidly address our differences," he added.

Xi said in his opening address at the SED in Beijing that with China and the US accounting for one-third of the global economy and one-fifth of global trade, cooperation would benefit both sides and the world while confrontation "would be disastrous".

Growing the bilateral relationship would require several key steps, such as improving strategic trust, deepening practical cooperation, and enhancing people-to-people ties, added Xi.

"As long as we maintain mutual respect, focus on common interests and minimise differences, persist with our strategic goals, and not be bogged down by a single issue or remark, Sino-US ties would be able to endure any turbulence," he said.

But more than one issue has emerged in the past year, calling into question the "new type of major-power relationship" that both leaders agreed to in June last year, one that seeks to pursue win-win cooperation and avoid conflict.

Ties between the world's two largest economies have come under increasing strain since China launched an air defence identification zone last November over the Senkaku/Diaoyu islands in the East China Sea which are administered by Japan.

This prompted the US to adopt a more vocal and involved role in territorial disputes between China and its neighbours.

In May, bilateral ties were further strained after the US indicted five Chinese military officers for hacking into US firms. This led China to suspend its involvement in a cyber security working group under the auspices of the SED.

Long-running issues such as the US criticism of the Chinese currency, which it considers to be undervalued, and China's unhappiness with trade barriers against Chinese firms are set to top the agenda at the SED talks.

Hopes of progress on dealing with North Korea's nuclear ambitions are low, with reports saying that Beijing has suspended working-level meetings on this issue in response to the US' involvement in the South China Sea disputes.

Still, both Xi and Obama yesterday gave a rather rosy appraisal of bilateral cooperation in the past year, which saw eight partnership pacts inked on Tuesday to cut greenhouse gases.

US Secretary of State John Kerry and Treasury Secretary Jacob Lew will meet State Councillor Yang Jiechi and Vice-Premier Wang Yang at the talks held over two days. They are set to discuss a bilateral investment treaty aimed at opening up each other's markets.

Kerry said yesterday "it is not lost on any of us that throughout history, there has been a pattern of strategic rivalry between rising and established powers".

"But I will say to you today neither President Obama nor any of us who have come here... believe that kind of rivalry is inevitable."

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