China's US envoy urges 'cool heads' at summit

Ambassador to US seeks to play down high hopes by saying leaders' one meeting does not ensure that relations will be all plain sailing

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 09 July, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 09 July, 2013, 4:15am

China's top envoy to Washington yesterday urged both sides to "keep a cool head" amid high expectations for this week's Sino-US strategic and economic dialogue.

The high-level talks - scheduled to start tomorrow in Washington - come just a month after presidents Xi Jinping and Barack Obama promised to build a "new model" for the relationship between the two powers during their first summit in California.

Ahead of the talks, Chinese and US officials met in Washington yesterday for the first session of a "cyber working group", which a State Department official said would let the two sides "raise concerns, develop processes for future cooperation and set the tone" on cyberissues, Agence France-Presse reported.

In a commentary on the People's Daily website, ambassador Cui Tiankai said the Sunnyvale talks had begun a new stage in the Sino-US relationship, but cautioned that the various disputes would not be resolved so quickly.

"We have to keep a cool head for Sino-US relations," he wrote. "The development path for this bilateral relationship will not be smooth after just one meeting of the two presidents."

He called on both nations to "take the high ground" while pursuing their visions, saying both sides needed to properly manage disputes.

The relationship will not be smooth after just one meeting of the presidents
Ambassador Cui Tiankai

The annual strategic and economic dialogue, the fifth such meeting, will be led by Vice-Premier Wang Yang and State Councillor Yang Jiechi , on the Chinese side, and Secretary of State John Kerry and Treasury Secretary Jacob "Jack" Lew for the US.

All four officials are new to their roles, as both nations have undergone cabinet reshuffles.

Shi Yinhong , an international relations professor at Renmin University, said Beijing was trying to tamp down "inflated expectations for the talks". "The two nations may reach some consensus on North Korea's nuclear programme, but there won't be major outcomes," Shi said. " Chinese officials do not want people to have very high expectations."

Former National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden's disclosures that the US had been hacking into Chinese computer systems had put Washington in an awkward position, observers said.

Dr Kenneth Lieberthal, a senior fellow of the Brookings Institution's John L. Thornton China Centre, said the US was likely to emphasise its position that it had not done any hacking to gain commercial secrets - an accusation levelled against China.

Broader security talks will follow.

Ni Lexiong , director of the Sea Power and Defence Policy Research Institute at Shanghai University of Political Science and Law, said both nations may pledge to step up maritime rescue drills and anti-privacy efforts.