Analysts agree that common interests have led to the best ties in three decades When US Secretary of State Colin Powell said last week that Sino-US relations were the best in 30 years, he was largely speaking the truth, say Chinese analysts of foreign affairs. Common interests - the September 11 terrorist attacks two years ago, the war in Iraq and the nuclear crisis on the Korean peninsula - would override some fundamental differences, these analysts said. The two nations had united to tackle dangers near and far. Frequent high-level contacts have enhanced mutual understanding. Quite apart from international summits and the use of telephone 'hotlines', there is contact almost every week at the ministerial and vice-ministerial level between China and the United States. Such dialogue has had both substantive and symbolic benefits. The Bush administration has traded harsh rhetoric for a calmer and less provocative tone in its dealings with China. The confidence of China's new leaders in their ability to overcome challenges has also improved the climate. Shen Shishun, senior research fellow at the China Institute of International Studies, said the trend in the past two years had been towards relatively stable relations, and that that trend would be maintained in the next few years. The Dalai Lama's meeting this week with US President George W. Bush at the White House drew strong condemnation from the Chinese Foreign Ministry, but the US government had always recognised Tibet as part of China, he said. Mr Shen said the government had maintained its own channels of communication with the Tibetan government-in-exile in India and understood the Dalai Lama had strong support in the US Congress. That support was why the clamour for independence was cast as a fight to preserve Tibetan culture, religion and human rights. Shi Yinhong, a professor of international relations at People's University, said protesting against the official US reception for the Dalai Lama was a matter of principle. But the visit was merely the latest of several meetings the White House incumbent, and presidents George Bush Snr and Bill Clinton, had held with the Dalai Lama, he said, and the Tibet issue paled beside Taiwan in its sensitivity and significance for Sino-US relations, he said. 'China will under no circumstance tolerate Taiwan independence,' said Mr Shen. 'That's the bottom line.' While these analysts are in general agreement about the smoothness of bilateral relations, others are more guarded. 'It is an overstatement to call the present situation the best in 30 years,' said one expert on American studies. 'As long as Taiwan is the sticking point, China's relations with the US will be fraught with tensions. 'I would call the present stability a lull.'