China Ink

A climate change indeed

The Chinese sent a large delegation to Washington this week for the Strategic and Economic Dialogue.

China's Finance Minister Xie Xuren and Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner toast during a dinner

So why is the dialogue so “strategic”?

Because it is widening the terms of debate between the two countries, says Dan Baxter in the China Daily. Now it is about more than just economic issues. The question is whether discussion at the strategic level will be able to avoid stepping on the toes of at least 56 other bilateral dialogues already in process

Why not, asks the Global Times? It is already a “miracle” that the relationship between the two countries has matured as it has, especially when they have “entirely different” ideologies, political systems and levels of economic development.

The talks do symbolise a new effort in Sino-US relations, agree most of the US press.

Obama dropped by with a Chinese proverb to make the point: “A trail through the mountains, if used, becomes a path in a short time, but if unused, becomes blocked by grass in equally short time.” Then the president moved on to some carefully chosen words on how teammates can adjust to one another, courtesy of an earlier chat with basketball star Yao Ming. Who just happens to be Chinese, of course.

And the tone is a little different?

Certainly different from the early days of the Bush administration. Caijing magazine reports on comments from Zhang Xiaoqiang, vice chairman of the National Development and Reform Commission, that the US is putting a lot less emphasis on Chinese exchange rate reform and capital market liberalisation, for instance.

The Global Times thinks that this was a good start but that “arduous negotiations on touchy issues” must follow.

There has been a sea change, admits the New York Times: “Gone, probably forever, are the days when American delegations would show up in Beijing with advice about how the Chinese could become a ‘responsible stakeholder’”.

The main takeaway from the two days is that China is now “without rival, front and centre in US policy thinking,” agrees Businessweek.

Chinese concerns about the dollar dominated discussions?

The Chinese press thought so. “Cut budget, halt inflation, US told” was the rather direct headline in the China Daily.

The Global Times thinks the US needs to understand that the Chinese people are genuinely concerned and that they deserve to see “detailed plans” that will reassure them. If the US overlooks this issue, dialogue between the two sides will be “meaningless.”

The international press mentions other topics, most notably the memorandum signed between the two countries on climate change.

But it agrees that the health of the dollar was at the forefront of the agenda. The New York Times thought that even the discussion of the dollar in end-of-day press conferences demonstrated a “subtle shift in power” and that China was showing a new assertiveness in seeking to protect its investments.


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