Analysts called on the US to handle the Chen Guangcheng incident in a pragmatic manner and not let it damage overall Sino-US relations, after Washington said Thursday Chen now wants to leave China.
"The US should respect China's concerns in dealing with incidents like the one about Chen, which should also reflect the dramatic changes in the Sino-US relationship over the past two decades," Ni Feng, a researcher of American Studies at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, told the Global Times.
"Back in the 1990s, bilateral relations used to tilt in favor of Washington, leading to concessions being made by Beijing. Now with the growth of China and the deepening of bilateral relations, this imbalance has gone," Ni said.
Addressing the opening session of the fourth round of the China-US Strategic and Economic Dialogue (S&ED), President Hu Jintao Thursday called on the two sides to build a new type of relationship by deepening mutual trust.
"To build a new type of relationship, we need to act in a spirit of equality and mutual understanding," Hu said, noting that given different national conditions, it is impossible for China and the US to see eye to eye on every issue.
Ni said the US needs to take mutual interests into consideration while handling Chen's case.
"China and the US are two large countries, and both play a critical role on the international stage. With their size and respective interests, it is natural that they have disputes. As Hu indicated, both sides need to manage their differences through dialogue. The S&ED is such a venue for them to work it out," Ni said.
Hu said the two sides must know how to respect each other, be good at expanding common ground and expand their converging interests.
The president said the two sides should break the traditional belief that big powers will enter into conflicts, and seek new ways to develop relations between major countries.
Hu called on the two sides to properly manage differences through dialogues and exchanges and by improving mutual understanding so that these differences will not undermine the larger interests of Sino-US relations.
Zhu Feng, a professor with the School of International Studies at Peking University, told the Global Times that the handling of Chen's case, which is regarded by some as the biggest issue concerning an individual between China and the US since 1989, is significant in the history of Sino-US relations.
Zhu expects China-US relations to be as complicated as they are important in the years to come.
"The glue keeping these two nations together is not only pragmatism, but also mutual interest, especially in trade," he said.
The US News and World Report commented that Chen's case has threatened to suck the oxygen out of the negotiation rooms, but both the US and China appear determined to ensure that the dialogue goes forward as planned.
The Financial Times said in an editorial on Wednesday that after the Chen incident broke out, the stage for the S&ED seemed to be "set for a train wreck."
"It is in everyone's interests to avoid one," it commented.
Kenneth Lieberthal, director of the John L. Thornton China Center under the Brookings Institution, told the PBS NewsHour, "I think the (Obama) administration decided from the start that China is a major power. We have got an array of very, very serious issues that we have to deal with them on: nuclear proliferation, North Korea, now the South China Sea."
"We will stress human rights and push that as effectively as we can, but we can't let any one of these issues, nuclear proliferation, human rights, economic and trade, to be a precondition of making progress in the other areas, because each of these areas is vital for US security, prosperity, and our relationships throughout the world," Lieberthal said.
During the S&ED, US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton demanded more engagement by China on issues like Iran, Syria, North Korea, Myanmar, Sudan and South Sudan. She touched on human rights, but made no specific mention of Chen.
State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said in Washington that US officials spoke twice by phone with Chen Thursday and had met with his wife, with both affirming their desire to leave.
But Nuland stopped short of saying whether Washington would try to reopen negotiations to get Chen abroad should Beijing agree.
On economic issues, US Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner said at the S&ED that the Chinese currency should continue to rise against the greenback.
But Chinese Vice Premier Wang Qishan countered that the US has to, first and foremost, manage its own affairs well amid a "complex and grim" world economic situation.
Wang also urged Washington to avoid politicizing economic issues, and take concrete steps to relax controls on hi-tech exports to China.
Xu Tianran and agencies contributed to this story