China wants to quell tensions with the United States through quiet talk, not shouting matches, senior officials told White House advisers, saying the two powers should focus on repairing the global economy.
The Chinese officials made the conciliatory public comments in meetings with visiting U.S. National Economic Council Director Larry Summers and Deputy National Security Adviser Thomas Donilon.
Washington and Beijing are drawn together by economic and diplomatic interests, but this year has brought bouts of friction over Internet policy, Tibet, U.S. arms sales to Taiwan, China’s currency and Chinese territorial claims in the South China Sea.
The gaping U.S. trade deficit with China, worth $226.9 billion in 2009, also causes rancour in Washington.
U.S. officials have said Chinese President Hu Jintao is likely to visit the United States early next year—an important but tricky political trophy for him—and Chinese State Councillor Dai Bingguo stressed hopes for an amicable atmosphere.
“Quiet and in-depth dialogue is better than loud haranguing,” Dai told Summers and Donilon, in remarks made in the presence of reporters as the two sides sat down for talks.
As a State Councillor, Dai advises leaders. His ranking in the ruling Communist Party makes him more powerful within the government than Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi.
Later in the day, China’s head of government, Premier Wen Jiabao, told the two advisers to President Barack Obama that the two countries should focus on reviving the world economy.
“The pressing task now is overcoming the hardships and damage brought by the international financial crisis and promoting global economic stabilisation and recovery,” Wen said, according to Chinese radio news.
“China and the United States must strive together to appropriately settle the related problems. The dominant current in China-U.S. relations is one of dialogue and cooperation.”
Summers and Donilon also took an upbeat public tone.
Summers told Chinese Vice Premier Wang Qishan on Monday that Obama “has emphasised for us the importance he attaches to a very strong relationship between the United States and China and to President Hu’s upcoming visit to the United States”.
Bid to Reduce Friction
The conciliatory comments from Chinese officials indicated that Beijing wants to keep friction in check, even if deep differences remain.
Neither side has said what issues are being discussed during the two days of talks. Summers’s discussions with China’s top central banker, Zhou Xiaochuan, and other policy-makers are likely to include currency and trade issues.
The United States complains that China keeps its yuan currency undervalued, giving its manufacturers an unfair advantage against imports and making Chinese exports cheaper.
China unofficially pegged the yuan to the dollar from mid-2008 to mid-2010, so the currency weakened against other trade partners as the value of the dollar slid.
China ended that de facto peg on June 19, but the yuan has since weakened by about 0.33 percent against the dollar, after appreciating as much as 0.91 percent on Aug. 9.
Chinese military officers have denounced Washington for selling arms to Taiwan, the self-ruled island claimed by Beijing, and for naval activities in seas near China.
In another sign that Beijing may be seeking to calm tensions, one of those military officers called for “avoiding friction and seeking bases for cooperation”.
“Solving the bilateral conflicts between China and the United States can rely only on dialogue, and not confrontation,” Major General Luo Yuan wrote in the Chinese magazine, Outlook Weekly.
“Dialogue is better than taking aim at each other.’ (Reuters)