Commentary: Obama should engage China in a new way

2013-01-23 12:13:11 GMT2013-01-23 20:13:11(Beijing Time)  Xinhua English

By Xinhua writer Tian Ying

BEIJING, Jan. 23 (Xinhua) -- U.S. President Barack Obama, who was sworn in for his second term on Monday, can history not only by virtue of his status as America's first black president, but also by forging a new relationship with China.

Although Obama is busy grappling with domestic issues, such as economic recovery, medical reform and gun violence, China's rise means that getting along with the country should be on his agenda.

Xi Jinping, the new general secretary of the Communist Party of China (CPC) Central Committee, suggested creating a "new type" of bilateral relations while visiting the U.S. in February 2012, when he was still China's vice president.

Such relations are intended to feature win-win cooperation, mutual trust and favorable interaction, as opposed to historical antagonism.

The U.S. side responded by saying it welcomes the peaceful rise of China, stating that the United States and China can prove to the world that the two heavyweights will not tread routes previously taken.

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton also suggested writing "a new answer to the age-old question of what happens when the established power and the rising power meet."

"We will show the courage to try and resolve our differences with other nations peacefully...because engagement can more durably lift suspicion and fear," Obama said in his inaugural speech.

U.S. engagement with China has marked a historical breakthrough in comparison to previous efforts to contain China. It has led bilateral ties to a point where both sides have established multiple dialogue mechanisms and become major bilateral trading partners.

However, despite changes in Washington's approach to China, bilateral relations have yet to see major change, and there have been signs that the Obama administration is not interested in engaging China in a new way.

A series of protectionist moves directed at China were launched during Obama's first term. Now, challenged by a weak economic recovery and high debt, Washington is looking inward more than ever.

Frequent China-bashing during last year's presidential campaign demonstrated the popularity of scapegoating China for domestic woes in the United States.

The U.S. government has also made moves to bolster its presence and influence in the Asia-Pacific region, such as announcing a plan to deploy 60 percent of its warships to the region by 2020.

Shi Yinhong, a professor of U.S. studies at Renmin University of China, said the U.S. strategy is designed to help the U.S. compete with China by weakening China's influence in the region.

However, such a strategy may prompt Washington to blindly pursue national interests at the expense of justice. Recent U.S. meddling in China-Japan affairs justifies such worries.

Clinton stated last Friday that the Diaoyu Islands are under the administrative authority of Japan, adding that the U.S.-Japan Security Treaty therefore applies to the islands.

The islands have been the subject of a sovereignty dispute between China and Japan.

As Obama's second term commences, he should consider dealing with China from a new perspective in order to set a precedent for the future of Sino-U.S. relations.

Domestically, his administration should loosen restrictions on exports of high-tech products to China, welcome Chinese investment, avoid protectionism and refrain from shirking its responsibilities by scapegoating other nations.

When handling world affairs, the Obama administration should respect history and prevent national interests from prevailing over justice.

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