I hope that these talks can be fruitful and do some good.
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For many years, U.S. officials traveled to Beijing and lectured the Chinese about the value of their currency and the need for economic and political reforms.
On Monday, about 200 senior Chinese officials traveled to Washington and heard soothing words of reassurance from U.S. officials: The dollar is still sound, your investments are safe and we are working really hard to restructure our economy.
Such is the nature of the U.S.-China relationship today. Behind all the reassuring language is a nervous sense that the fate of the world economy is increasingly dependent on the United States and China working together.
President Obama opened the first meeting of the U.S.-China Strategic and Economic Dialogue on Monday by declaring that the two countries share a responsibility for the 21st century, and should strive to cooperate not only on economic matters but also on key issues such as climate change, nuclear proliferation and transnational threats.
"The pursuit of power among nations must no longer be seen as a zero-sum game," he said at the start of the two-day meeting, held at the Ronald Reagan Building and co-chaired by Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton and Treasury Secretary Timothy F. Geithner. "Progress -- including security -- must be shared."
The meetings are intended mostly to allow officials to exchange views on a wide range of issues and to establish contacts in each other's governments. On Monday, Obama gave a gentle prod to China on its human rights record, noting that "all people should be free to speak their minds," but otherwise focused on forming with China a partnership "of opportunity."
"The United States will never become China, and China will never become the United States," he (State Councilor Dai Bingguo, who oversees foreign policy) added. "But the living fact is that China and the United States' interactions have never been so frequent, our interest has never been interwoven so closely, and the mutually beneficial cooperation between our two countries has never been so broad, and the driving force boosting the China-U.S. relationship has never been so strong."
There's little doubt that the election of Obama has done a good job of garnering favor from the citizens of the world. America's favorability ratings in China went from 34% in 2007 to 47% now in 2009. Hopefully some of that good will has also spread to the leaders of China and countries around the world.
There's no doubt that America is mired in a terrible recession. I will not argue with that. The conventional wisdom is that China is the lone nation leading the world out of such dire circumstances. That, I'm not 100% sure about.
There are a few signs around that China's growth might not be all that it's cracked up to be. I'm sure China is optimistic that its massive stimulus and vast amounts of resources will give it keep it's economy going, yield it more power in the international community, and give it the upper-hand in the US/China relationship. It might very well, but I believe there are some reasons to question this thinking.
If these kinds of talks and a general respect from each side towards the other can keep China and America's relations normalized, the world will benefit. There'll sure be huge problems as the world moves forward - both with the economy, the environment, and a huge array of other issues. I'd like the US and China to work together on these things. I don't think the world is going to be able to afford having the two countries at each others' throats.