Xi Jinping

Biden visit success is only the start

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 24 August, 2011, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 24 August, 2011, 12:00am


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Global stability rests on China and the US being on friendly terms and working together. American Vice-President Joe Biden furthered those objectives during his recent visit, putting the nations on an equal footing and treating his counterpart, Xi Jinping as a partner. With tensions over trade, Taiwan and the South China Sea ever-present, his leaving on the best of terms with apparently improved understanding on both sides is a credit to Beijing's and Washington's resolve to improve relations. It is as should be expected; such high-level contacts are essential for the world's two most important countries.

Biden went to China with two goals and would seem to have attained both. He needed to assure officials that their investment in US Treasuries was safe and Xi's virtually certain rise to the presidency next year made striking up a relationship a necessity. Chinese leaders responded positively to his remarks and the vice-president, unusually, accompanied him on a trip to Chengdu. Welcome progress has been made and every effort has to be made to build on it.

In Beijing and Chengdu, Biden repeatedly assured that although the US' credit rating had been downgraded, Chinese assets and investments were safe. Actions are more important than words in this regard and Beijing will be closely watching how the US Congress manages the economy. Such is also the case with Taiwan; relations soured last year after Washington sold weapons to the island. With more sales being considered, talk about being partners will have little meaning if what has been gained disappears in an instant.

Biden has scored considerable points with citizens by eating at a simple noodle restaurant in Beijing. His pairing China and the US as an informal G2, on a level above other G20 nations, went over well with officials. But as successful as his visit has been, it does not by itself markedly move ties forward. For that to happen, there has to be considerably more talks, not just among leaders but at all levels.