January 2, 2024
BEIJING – As the heads of state of China and the United States exchanged congratulatory letters on the 45th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic ties on Monday, analysts said that managing differences and expanding practical collaborations will be the top priority for both sides this year.
The New Year’s wish the two nations hope would come true is that the momentum in the improvement of ties remains unbroken to prevent any major setbacks in relations, they added.
In his letter, President Xi Jinping said the establishment of ties “is a major event in the history of bilateral and international relations”.
Over the past 45 years, the China-US relationship has gone through ups and downs and moved forward on the whole, which has not only improved the well-being of the two peoples, but also promoted world peace, stability and prosperity, Xi wrote.
He pointed out that adhering to mutual respect, peaceful coexistence and win-win cooperation is the right way the two major countries should take to get along, and it surely should be the direction of China-US joint efforts in the new era.
In November, Xi and US President Joe Biden held summit talks in San Francisco and mapped out a clear path for the growth of Sino-US relations.
The two sides should earnestly implement the important consensus and results reached in San Francisco and “take practical actions to advance the stable, healthy and sustained development of China-US relations”, Xi wrote.
Xi pledged to further work with Biden to navigate and chart the ties, benefit both nations and their peoples, and advance the cause of peace and development in the world.
On his part, Biden said the relationship has facilitated prosperity and opportunities for the US, China and the world, and he is committed to managing this important relationship responsibly.
He added that he looks forward to continuing to advance the US-China relationship based on the progress made by the predecessors of the two leaders and through multiple meetings and discussions between the two heads of state.
Beijing and Washington issued their landmark joint communique on the establishment of diplomatic relations on Dec 16, 1978, which dictated and led to the founding of ties on Jan 1, 1979.
At the heart of the document is the one-China principle and the US stating that it “will maintain cultural, commercial, and other unofficial relations with the people of Taiwan”.
In this document, both sides reaffirmed their wish to “reduce the danger of international military conflict” and their belief that “neither should seek hegemony”.
Senior officials and scholars from both countries said that such shared beliefs and commitments are “still relevant today” even after 45 years.
In 2024, China-US ties may be impacted and tested by multiple factors such as the Taiwan question and the US general elections, and Washington has to demonstrate its sincerity by taking more actions and to work with Beijing to fully roll out the San Francisco consensus, experts said.
Su Xiaohui, deputy director of the Department of American Studies at the China Institute of International Studies, said Xi’s letter is a reminder for the US that mutual respect forms the foundation of ties, and that the two major economies should treat each other as equals.
“China hopes that the US will stop its provocative moves trying to cross China’s line, match its actions with its commitments and show more sincerity in getting along with China,” she said.
Biden’s letter also reaffirmed Washington’s position that the establishment of ties is the right decision, and not the wrong one as claimed by hawkish politicians back in the US, she noted.
The international community is also expecting stability in the relations as “the confrontation between the two major countries would definitely be a disaster for the world”, she said.
Neil Bush, founder and chairman of the George H.W. Bush Foundation for US-China Relations, said that in comparison to 1975 — the year he went to China to visit his father in Beijing, “now it’s a little harder for the American people to be comfortable exchanging with China because there are just irrational fears that have been raised in their minds about China”.
“We need more exchanges. Those exchanges have been made more difficult, but hopefully the ice is melting and we will be able to have warmer relations over time,” Bush told reporters on the sidelines of a forum in Hong Kong recently.
In the past year, dialogues and interactions between the two nations have been on the rise, as nearly 20 dialogue and exchange mechanisms between officials have been revived, and direct flights have grown from only 20 every week to 70, observers noted.
US Secretary of the Treasury Janet Yellen has said the US “does not seek to decouple from China”, which “would be damaging to both our economies and would have negative global repercussions”.
“Alongside seeking a healthy economic relationship, we’ve also pursued cooperation with China on global challenges”, she said at the US-China Business Council’s 50th anniversary dinner in Washington, on Dec 14.
Experts warned that the resumption of China-US high-level dialogues in the past year does not necessarily mean that Washington will refrain from damaging China’s interests.
On Dec 22, Biden signed into law the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2024, which authorizes the US secretary of defense to create a military training program for Taiwan.
Chinese Ambassador to the US Xie Feng recently urged the US side to “move with us in the same direction and follow up with more actions”.
“Especially, it is important to prevent any flip-flopping, and avoid taking one step forward but then taking half or even two steps backward, lest it should cause new obstacles to bilateral relations,” Xie said at a reception marking the 52nd anniversary of Ping-Pong Diplomacy last month.
Da Wei, a professor and director of the Center for International Security and Strategy at Tsinghua University, said that Washington has publicly stated its commitment to what it calls “one-China policy”, but in fact it has been constantly hollowing it out.
In the New Year, the two countries “should at least ensure the stability of their ties” and roll out cooperation in specific areas, he said.