A stage for cooperation, not an arena for conflict

Updated: 2016-06-07 07:09

(China Daily)

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A stage for cooperation, not an arena for conflict

The joint opening ceremony of the eighth round of U.S.-China Strategic and Economic Dialogues and the seventh round of U.S.-China High-Level Consultation on People-to-People Exchange is held in Beijing, capital of China, June 6, 2016.[Photo/Xinhua]

The annual China-US Strategic and Economic Dialogue, the eighth of its kind, comes as a timely reminder that despite bitter bickering and their frequent exchange of barbs over the South China Sea, the world's two largest economies still have many common interests where they are working constructively together-global warming, cyber security, nuclear nonproliferation, trade and economic cooperation, among others.

The interactions conducted, agreements made, and differences aired during the two-day dialogue, which ends on Tuesday, will largely shape the course of China-US relations in the immediate future. Hopefully, the talks will help clarify each other's intentions.

Much discord in bilateral ties has resulted from suspicions about each other's intentions. As the rise of China has affected the global balance of power, some in the US worry whether China will continue to rise peacefully. They tend to buy into the "China threat" fallacy and see every move by China as a challenge to the US' primacy, especially in the Asia-Pacific region. Some in China also view every move by the US in Asia as an attempt to contain China's rise.

Such mutual suspicions, if unchecked, risk a "strategic misjudgment", which Chinese President Xi Jinping has said both sides must do their utmost to avoid.

In a speech made at the opening of the dialogue, Xi made it clear once again that China has no intention of seeking rivalry with the US. The vast Pacific should be "a stage for cooperation, not an area for competition", he said.

The message is clear: Despite tensions in the South China Sea, Sino-US relations are mature enough for both sides to seek to resolve problems and contain differences through candid and in-depth exchanges. The S&ED provides a platform for such exchanges.

It is encouraging to see that the goodwill extended by China is being reciprocated by the US, with John Kerry, the US secretary of state, who is leading the US delegation, expressing the US' desire to "work constructively" on the differences.

He said the dialogue is an opportunity to seek creative ways to narrow the differences or eliminate them altogether.

China and the US can learn from their past. The two countries had far more differences and disputes four decades ago, during the height of the Cold War, when the two countries started to explore ways to normalize their relations.

Yet statesmen on both sides found ways to overcome the hurdles of ideological confrontation, because they understood, as Henry Kissinger has said, that the Sino-US relationship "has become a central element in the quest for world peace and global well-being".

Such words still hold true.