Recent meeting of minds on tough global issues show the value of Sino-US cooperation

Xi and Obama reached agreement on climate change and nuclear security; the same approach should be taken on matters of trade and the South China Sea

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 05 April, 2016, 12:42am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 05 April, 2016, 12:42am

China and the US well know the need to have good relations, for the sake of their nations, the region and world. Differences of opinion are inevitable when one power is rising, the other trying to come to terms with the changing geopolitical landscape. Finding common ground is the best anchor point from which to build and smooth ties, and Beijing and Washington found that in Paris last year with their shared strategy on climate change. They have identified another area to work together through cooperating on global nuclear security.

Both issues were high on the agenda of President Xi Jinping’s (習近平 ) meeting with his American counterpart Barack Obama on the sidelines of the nuclear summit in Washington last week. They signed a joint statement on security cooperation, focusing on the threat to stability posed by North Korea’s atomic weapons proliferation and preventing nuclear material from falling into the hands of extremists. Given both nations have a vested interest in a peaceful and stable world, that sent a strong signal to the 48 other leaders at the summit. Their reiteration to sign the global climate accord agreed to in Paris in December similarly sent a compelling message to others to adopt the pact at a UN ceremony on April 22 and advance steps to cut carbon emissions.

Xi-Obama talks to focus on simmering China, US disputes on sidelines of nuclear security summit

Sino-American cooperation was also crucial in bringing Iran to heel over its nuclear programme. Xi neatly summed up the approach, saying that “the climate change issue is a perfect example of how China and the US work together to deal with global challenges”. The leaders voiced a commitment to the denuclearisation of the Korean peninsula and set up an annual bilateral dialogue between their countries on nuclear security.

Obama started the summit in 2010, but there are doubts as to whether it will continue after his term ends in January. Over the six years, there has been significant progress, with 14 countries and Taiwan being persuaded to give up nuclear material that could be used to make weapons, while 12 others have decreased stockpiles. China, like the rest of the world, would benefit from international cooperation on nuclear security, but with an ambitious atomic energy programme of its own, also has a critical role to play.

Attaining positive results proves China and the US are able to work together. Such successes reinforce the relationship and can be used to produce positive momentum in ties. They are a good starting point from which to take on difficult issues like disputes over trade and the South China Sea.