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Security talks opportunity to set right tone for ties: China Daily editorial

China Daily | Updated: 2018-11-06 20:15

It is good news to all concerned about the state of China-US relations that their second Diplomatic and Security Dialogue will finally be held on Friday in Washington.

Although it remains to be seen how far the meeting can go in arresting the slide of bilateral ties amid the current trade impasse, that it is being held at all indicates they have a shared willingness to exert some control over the situation.

There has been a growing conviction that recent US moves regarding Taiwan and the South China Sea are meant to extract more Chinese concessions on trade. Whether or not that is the case, Beijing and Washington need in-depth communication over security and diplomacy in general, to improve their "trust deficit".

That deficit has been augmented considerably in the past few years, particularly after Washington openly identified Beijing as its foremost strategic competitor, President Donald Trump threatened a full-scale trade war, and State Secretary Mike Pompeo vowed to confront Beijing on all fronts.

So it is particularly important for diplomatic and military authorities on both sides to engage in candid talks. They need to assure each other that the worst-case scenarios can be avoided and that agreements can be reached.

Since it is economic and trade issues that are the most divisive at present, Friday's talks focusing on diplomacy and security, may not suffice for a similar assessment to the first such dialogue in June 2017, which was deemed to be significant progress in bilateral exchanges. Yet the coming discussions should not be lightly dismissed as given the latest messages from both capitals, both sides do want something other than confrontation.

In a clear push back against the recent assumption that trade was no longer playing its role as the "ballast" of China-US ties, Vice-President Wang Qishan stated on Tuesday that, "Trade and economic cooperation remain the anchor and propeller of a steady and healthy China-US relationship which is in essence mutually beneficial", and he promised China would "work for mutual benefit".

With US Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis telling his Chinese counterpart earlier in Singapore that "strategic competition does not imply hostility", when the two meet again on Friday, they should demonstrate that both countries have the common political will to forge a healthy relationship.

Doing so will surely be conducive to the two sides finding a solution to their trade frictions through talks and preventing their differences from becoming hostility.

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