Premier Wen Jiabao yesterday used his last meeting with US President Barack Obama to push for stability between Washington and Beijing’s new leadership.
In a wide-ranging meeting at the Asean East Asia Summit in Phnom Penh, the two leaders discussed economic and security issues, including the growing territorial disputes between China and its neighbours.
Wen, who will be stepping down from the post of premier next March, spoke of the global importance of the Sino-US relationship, urging continuing efforts to construct new relations.
“Maintaining the steady, healthy and stable development conforms to the fundamental interests of both countries and people. It is also conducive to peace, stability and prosperity in the Asia-Pacific and the world,” he said.
He added that mutual economic and financial interests could help the two countries tackle “the difficulties we have and resolve the differences and disagreements between us”.
Obama spoke of the special responsibilities of the world’s two largest economies to work to together to ensure sustained economic stability and clear the rules of the road on trade.
Diplomats close to the meeting said the subject of the South China Sea came up. Obama outlined US interests in continued stability, while Wen warned Obama to stop internationalising the issue.
It was the first face to face between senior leaders of both sides since the completion of China’s leadership transition and Obama’s re-election. Obama’s second term is expected to be marked by tougher action against China on trade and intellectual property infringement. Sino-US rivalries are expected to intensify as Obama deepens links with China’s neighbours and adds an economic element to the military and diplomatic “pivot” to the region.
Wen congratulated Obama on his victory and passed on regards from the new Communist Party leader, Xi Jinping, who will replace Hu Jintao as president in March.
Mainland analysts said Wen was relaying a message to both the Obama administration and China’s next government to keep Sino-US ties stable. Vice-president Xi emphasised in February the need to establish a new relationship between China and the US. Officials from both countries reiterated the call in their strategic and economic dialogue, held in Beijing in May.
Jin Canrong, a US affairs expert at the Renmin University, said: “China has never expected to be a very good friend of the US, but it wants to keep bilateral ties stable. This is a consensus reached by both the current and new Chinese leaders.”
Jia Qingguo, a US affairs expert at Peking University, said Wen’s remarks indicated that Beijing wants to deepen co-operation with the US, and will continue to seek common interest with Washington.
Both China and the US are members of the fledgling East Asia Summit, at which the economy was high on the agenda. Asean leaders started talks on a regional trade agreement with China, Japan, India, South Korea, Australia and New Zealand.
China, Japan and South Korea also announced the start of trade talks, according to Xinhua. The first round of talks will take place next year, it said.