Washington and Beijing, as the world’s top and second biggest economies, should emphasize more on bilateral dialogue to clear up their misunderstanding amid U.S. refocusing on the Asia-Pacific region, U.S. experts said before the upcoming China visits by two senior U.S. offiicals.
U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is to arrive in Beijing on Tuesday for a two-day visit, while Defense Secretary Leon Panetta is to visit Beijing in mid-September.
Two U.S. experts, in recent interviews with Xinhua, said they believe Beijing and Washington should continue the existing dialogue mechanisms, such as the annual cabinet-level U.S.-China Strategic and Economic Dialogue, to avoid misunderstanding and enhance cooperation.
“We just need to continue to use the dialogue mechanisms that we have, to use them more effectively, be very transparent with each other,” said Bonnie Glaser, a veteran China expert at the Washington-based think tank Center for Strategic and International Studies.
“We need to try to take each other’s interests into account and understand each other’s policies and priorities and avoid miscalculations,” she said.
She also suggested the two major powers “build some confidence by giving advance notice to each other when we plan to do things.”
Noting that both countries will have a power transition in 2012, Kenneth Lieberthal, director of the John Thornton China Center at the Brookings Institute, said the two sides should avoid “taking any new initiatives” to “prevent really bad things from happening.”
Clinton’s and Panetta’s visits come at a sensitive time, when the territorial disputes in the East China Sea and the South China Sea are escalating between China and several other Asian nations.
The United States, which claims not to take sides in these disputes, is somewhat blamed for the rising tensions due to its de facto support to the parties opposite to China.
However, echoing the Obama administration’s position, both Glaser and Lieberthal denied Washington’s efforts to contain China, saying the current U.S.-China relation is much different from the tug-of-war between the U.S. and the Soviet Union during the Cold War.
Glaser explained her thoughts on the real aims of the U.S. pivot to Asia policy, saying China is a major factor in the U.S. decision to reshift its strategic focus to Asia-Pacific.
“There is a China factor in all this. The U.S. is seeking to prevent China from miscalculation; it is seeking to counterbalance China in the region in a way that will reassure other nations,” she said.
Lieberthal said the hardline stance by some “folks up on the (Capitol) Hill and defense intellectuals” could be viewed as threatening by Beijing, but “the U.S. foreign policy is whatever the (U.S.) president says it is.”
The expert served as the former senior director for Asia on the National Security Council from 1998 to 2000 in the Clinton administration.
He said the U.S. pivot to Asia reflected President Barack Obama’s view that Asia is the most important region in the world.
Obama wanted to rectify his predecessor’s policy that put too much focus on the Middle East while regarding Asia only as “an adjunct to the global war on terror,” he said.