Wednesday,26 September, 2018
Current issue | Issue 1209, (14 - 20 August 2014)
Wednesday,26 September, 2018
Issue 1209, (14 - 20 August 2014)

Ahram Weekly

A new model of relations?

Chinese-US relations, once non-existent, are now a lynchpin of global governance, while differences in interests and perspective remain, writesEl Sayed Amin Shalaby


Al-Ahram Weekly

The historic visit of Richard Nixon to Beijing in May 1972 brought to an end 25 years of American hostility towards the People’s Republic of China. During the Carter era, full diplomatic relations were established. Since then the two countries’ relations witnessed many ups and downs. However, successive Chinese and American presidents were keen to sustain and develop relations into new and advanced areas.

It is helpful to review the state of relations from 1979, when full relations and exchanges were established, to their level today. In 1979, annual trade between the two countries was just $2.45 billion, while in 2013, it surged to over half a trillion dollars. Two-way investment, which was insignificant in the early days of their relations, has now exceeded $100 billion.

Today, China and the United States are each other’s second largest partner. China is the US’s main source of imports and third-largest export market. In 1979, official exchanges between the two countries were limited: over the past five years, the presidents of the two countries have met 14 times. There are more than 90 mechanisms for cooperation between the two countries, including the Strategic and Economic Dialogues and High-level Consultation on People to People Exchange. Moreover, there are 41 pairs of sister province/states, and 201 pairs of sister city relationships between China and the United States.

In 1979, only several thousand Chinese and Americans visited the other country in the entire year. In 2013, every day sees more than 10,000 Chinese and Americans fly across the Pacific Ocean for mutual visits. In 1979, cooperation between China and the United States was nothing like today in terms of scope and intensity.

The two countries now maintain close relations and dialogue on global challenges, such as the financial crisis, climate change, energy and food security, as well as foreign policy issues like North Korea, Iran, and Syria. The two countries have played an important role in addressing these challenges and issues.

Recently the two countries marked 35 years of relations, the celebration coinciding with the meeting in Beijing of the sixth round of the Strategic and Economic Dialogue on 9–10 July, a mechanism established in the 1990s to manage their relations

China’s President Xi Jinping, inaugurating the new round of dialogue, said that it was rational that China and the US have different views, even splits on certain issues. This itself made communication more necessary. He emphasised that the two countries’ interests are connected more than ever before.

US President Barack Obama, speaking at the meeting, said that China and the US could not agree on every issue, therefore the two countries must build their relations on common challenges and common responsibilities. The US president concluded that the two countries are committed to build a “new model” of relations.

This concept goes back to Chinese President Xi Jinping’s meeting with Obama at the Annenberg Retreat in June 2013, where the two presidents agreed to build a new model of major, continuing relations. The Chinese president characterised this new model as one without conflict or confrontation, relying instead on mutual respect and win-win cooperation.

The challenge today for the two countries is to translate this model into specific policies and measures that support cooperation.

The writer is executive director of the Egyptian Council for Foreign Affairs.

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