Annual US-China dialogue should not focus on lesser issues

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 26 June, 2016, 12:19am
UPDATED : Sunday, 26 June, 2016, 12:19am

I write as a former legislator and refer to the article, “Building a better table” (June 8) which said that some China analysts have urged the US and China to overhaul their annual strategic and economic dialogue in which 100 top-ranking officials participated earlier this month.

The main argument for this change from analysts on the non-Chinese side is that the dialogue has become less focused on genuinely strategic issues, with too much time spent on lesser issues that could be managed by the normal bureaucratic process.

On the Chinese side, several key analysts felt both countries wanted to continue the dialogue in a flexible way because it represented an automatic mechanism to discuss a wide range of issues.

He Weiwen, co-director of the China-US-EU Study Centre under the Ministry of Commerce’s China Association of International Trade, said the importance of the dialogue was second only to meetings between the two nations’ presidents.

He said over the years, the dialogue had been an important platform, dealing with issues such as intellectual property, Taiwan and the South China Sea territorial disputes.

Tao Wenzhao, a US affairs expert at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, raised a critical point when he said the talks brought the US and China more together as it cuts wrangling between ministers and bureaucrats.

On the economic side of the dialogue, both countries are now more aware time is running short for a bilateral investment treaty deal to be arrived at during the final months of the Obama administration. The best time to reach an agreement would be prior to the G20 leaders summit in China in September.

On the political side, top of the agenda was the South China Sea.

Beijing reaffirmed talks should only include the countries involved. But both sides agreed to work on improving confidence measures, especially rules of behaviour for safety and maritime encounters.

At this stage, Beijing could consider putting forward a more coherent and convincing presentation on its South China Sea claims, in which the international judicial processes would be involved.

This would enable China to be even further integrated into the international community as a responsible global power.

With America’s recent pivot to Asia, it is vital that as China continues redefining itself, both countries maintain good relations with sensitivity and mutual respect.

Regional stability is paramount for all in the region, including those of us living in Hong Kong.

Hilton Cheong-Leen, To Kwa Wan