Former US trade representative Charlene Barshefsky gave a grave warning at the recent Boao Forum for Asia in Hainan: Sino-US relations are heading for dangerous waters. Long used to its pre-eminence as the only superpower in the world, the United States is worried about a rising China, and those worries are being complicated by a weakening economy and huge job losses under an administration preoccupied with aggressive unilateralism. In past months, the administration of George W. Bush has been harping on the manipulation of the yuan, claiming that its undervaluation was the reason that Chinese exports were so strong and US manufacturers had lost 2.4 million jobs in the past three years. Coming under fire from economists, even in the US, the Bush administration has back-pedalled on its hard line, and instead launched a new broadside this week: quotas on three Chinese textile imports. Thus far, Beijing has taken a tactful approach to counter the US move. The Ministry of Commerce delayed planned trips to America to buy US goods - which were to have been a sign of goodwill to appease American politicians - but otherwise spoke only in the most polite terms. Analysts say Chinese trade officials will use the framework of the World Trade Organisation to resolve the issues. Clearly, Premier Wen Jiabao will have his work cut out when he goes to Washington early next month. This is his first trip to the US, and as an international novice he will have to learn fast about how to deal smartly with the trade hawks on Capitol Hill, as well as with the hardliners at the Pentagon, who are more than happy to see the recent rising tension in the Taiwan Strait. Mr Wen should take good counsel from Ms Barshefsky, who advised Beijing to seize the momentum in Washington by coming up with accelerated market openings that correspond with the nation's WTO commitments. Among her ideas was one of allowing US corporations to invest more quickly in China's banking sector reforms. By allowing this before 2007, the scheduled timeline when all foreign banks can take a stake in Chinese banks, the mainland could simultaneously accelerate financial reforms and also shut up US politicians. How well Mr Wen performs in America may well determine Sino-US relations for years to come, as well as his own political future.