BEIJING, Feb. 23 -- If the point of Hillary Rodham Clinton's maiden voyage overseas in her new role as United States secretary of state was to assure and reassure, she made it.
If her four-country Asia trip was to present a fresh American approach to world affairs, she did so.
In Beijing at least, Clinton's visit delivered what is needed desperately - a sense of certainty in the diplomatic vacuum between two presidencies.
Until very recently, many had waited anxiously for the new administration's China overtures, wondering if the precious signs of stabilization in bilateral ties at the end of the Bush years could survive the new White House resident's ambitions for change. With Clinton in town highlighting common concerns, they finally received the much sought after relief.
Her reference to the ancient Chinese aphorism "tongzhou gongji," "when in one boat, help each other," received enthusiastic resonance from Premier Wen Jiabao and the average Chinese alike.
In her tune-setting Feb 13 speech at the Asia Society, Mrs Clinton declared a rising China is not an adversary by definition, and the two countries can benefit from and contribute to each other's successes. And she found us in a common boat.
In Sun Zi's The Art of War, from where the aphorism derives, capable commanders can make all soldiers, brave or cowardly, fight courageously by throwing them into a situation where they have to. That is exactly where our two countries are. The commanders here are the financial crisis, climate change, and many more. Given the inter-dependence between our economies, as well as our impacts and responsibilities as two of the world's largest developed and developing economies, we have to get together. And since our countries are unlike the ancient enemy states of Wu and Yue, we can certainly achieve more than crossing the river.
Talking about tackling climate change and other global challenges, Mrs Clinton evoked another Chinese proverb, saying we should not "linke juejing" or "dig a well when thirsty". Huang Di's Internal Classic, the oldest Chinese medical classic which spawned this proverb, prescribes advanced planning. It is too late, it says, to act when symptoms of illness are obvious, and chaos is a fact in society, just like digging a well when thirsty.
Mrs Clinton's Asia trip was defined as a "listening tour". She has listened to many, including ancient Chinese wisdom.
Everyone managing sino-US relations needs such wisdom to cultivate strategic insight.
(Source: China Daily)