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  • Sep 30, 2014
  • Updated: 4:01pm
CommentInsight & Opinion

Sino-US talks vital for tackling range of global problems

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 21 March, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 21 March, 2013, 2:50am

China's relations with other countries all but ground to a halt for six months during the transition to a new leadership. With Xi Jinping affirmed as president and his governing team under Premier Li Keqiang in place, it is once again business as usual for foreign policy. There was an immediate flurry of diplomatic activity as soon as the National People's Congress ended at the weekend. So there should have been - there is no more important country when it comes to the world's most pressing issues.

Congratulations poured in from friends and foes alike in the wake of Xi's taking office. But quickest off the mark when it came to face-to-face meetings was rightly the US, China's biggest trading partner and greatest rival. Treasury Secretary Jack Lew held symbolic talks with Xi and Li, foreshadowing visits next month by Secretary of State John Kerry and the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Martin Dempsey. Challenges and scepticism abound, necessitating not only re-engagement, but sustained communication and co-operation.

Yet the earliest Xi and his US counterpart, Barack Obama, are likely to meet is September. Xi's first foreign trip is to Moscow to see Russia's President Vladimir Putin, and then he travels to Africa. The trail was blazed by his predecessor, Hu Jintao, and is in keeping with China's interests - oil, gas and other natural resources and markets for goods and expertise. There is every reason for Chinese and American leaders to promptly hold talks; working together, they offer the best chance of solving the problems of the region and world.

Japan's Prime Minister Shinzo Abe also wants to see China's leaders, the territorial dispute over the Diaoyu Islands having soured relations. China and Japan, as the world's second- and third-biggest economies, need to put the matter aside so that trade and investment can continue unhindered. Hu spoke of foreign relations in terms of strategic partnerships, but pragmatism now has to hold sway. Li's stated approach has been of "shared interests", which is far more practical.

This has to be especially so where China and the US are concerned. Together, they hold the key to solving the world's problems - the European economic crisis, nuclear proliferation in North Korea and Iran, and the civil war in Syria foremost among them. Resolution lies in taking the lead, co-operation and multilateralism. Through tapping shared interest, there is every chance of distrust and uncertainty being swept aside.


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Far from creating a new world order, Russia and China have in fact perpetuated the old disorder. The best example of this is Syria. When other nations came together and tried to bring a peaceful resolution to Syria it was Russia and China -- and on three separate occasions -- that blocked them. Not because Russia and China had better ideas but because it looked like regime change for Syria -- something they feared happening in their own countries. Why would they help topple Assad if their own regimes are no better, and Assad's downfall might encourage their own?
Conveniently Russia and China lifted not a finger to sort things out in Syria. Moreover, they have rendered the rest of the nations impotent of doing anything as well.
Meanwhile the Syrian people suffered greatly and thousands died as their country descended into the depths of civil war. All along we continue to watch helplessly from the sidelines.
If this is Mr. Putin's idea of new world order, we want no part of it. As for China, it is now intertwined with the economic interests of the nations of the world, and can no longer afford to keep in lockstep with the stagnating Russia.


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