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Intensive high-level contacts warm up Obama's China visit


BEIJING, Oct. 29 (Xinhua) -- Sino-U.S. ties have been warmed up for U.S. President Barack Obama's upcoming China visit by frequent contacts between high-level officials from both sides, Chinese experts said Thursday.

The 20th meeting of China-U.S. Joint Commission on Commerce and Trade (JCCT) was officially convened on Thursday morning in China's eastern city of Hangzhou.

This year's JCCT talks, highlighted by U.S. Commerce Secretary Gary Locke, Trade Representative Ron Kirk and Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack, were widely seen as part of preparations for the presidential summit next month.

"Today's JCCT meeting laid a solid groundwork and made full preparations for President Obama's visit in two weeks, which will help build the positive, cooperative and comprehensive China-U.S. relations toward the 21st century," China's Minister of Commerce Chen Deming said at the end of talks.

In the meantime, Xu Caihou, vice chairman of China's Central Military Commission, was paying his first visit to the United States under the Obama administration.

During his talks with U.S. Secretary of Defense Robert Gates, Xu and Gates explored ways to further military-to-military cooperation and reached agreement on seven points, which included Gates' visit to China in 2010 and mutual visits of warships.

The agreement on conducting joint maritime searches and rescue exercises has already had the embryonic form of crisis management mechanism, said Ding Xinghao, president of the Shanghai Association of American Studies.

During the 11-day visit, the Chinese general was also invited to visit some sensitive military sites, including the Strategic Command Headquarter, which was in charge of nuclear weapons and cyber war.

Xu's visits to the sensitive military sites showed the U.S. military's willingness to promote mutual trust with the Chinese military, said Fu Mengzi, a researcher with the China Institute of Contemporary International Relations.

Since the Obama administration took office, Sino-U.S. relations have witnessed a smooth transition and maintained a good momentum of development.

In June 2009, the defense ministries of China and the United States held the 10th defense consultation. In July, the two countries held their first round strategic and economic dialogue. In August, the two militaries held the maritime military security consultation.

In addition, Obama issued a "presidential determination" On Sept. 29 that shifted authority for approving sales to China of missile and space technology from the White House to the Commerce Department, a move viewed by experts as Washington's delivery of goodwill to Beijing.

It was also noteworthy that U.S. Deputy Secretary of State James B. Steinberg proposed a new term to describe U.S.-China relations in his keynote address entitled "Administration's Vision of the U.S.-China Relationship" at the Center for a New American Security in Washington on Sept. 24.

"Strategic reassurance", as Steinberg noted, means that "just as we and our allies must make clear that we are prepared to welcome China's 'arrival'...China must reassure the rest of the world that its development and growing global role will not come at the expense of security and well-being of others."

This term captured the crux of Sino-U.S. ties, said Niu Xinchun, vice director of the Center for American Studies at the China Institute of Contemporary International Relations. "It is aimed at realizing the strategic mutual trust between the two countries."

The foundation for the sustained and stable development of bilateral ties lies in mutual trust, he said, but trade frictions between the two nations show that mutual trust still needs to be strengthened.

Obama announced in September to impose 35 percent punitive tariffs on all car and light truck tires from China for three years.

Just on Tuesday, the U.S. Department of Commerce announced preliminary determination that intended to impose a tariff up to 12 percent on the steel grafting and steel strand imported from China, valued 269 million U.S. dollars.

In addition, China and the United States still have differences on some issues concerning China's core interests, such as U.S. arms sales to Taiwan and Tibet-related issues.

Although both sides have the willingness to enhance mutual trust, it is still difficult for them to fulfill the goal, said Fu Mengzi, adding it needs sustained efforts from both sides.

"Sino-U.S. relations are now standing at a new historical starting point," said Chinese Vice Premier Wang Qishan at the opening ceremony of the 20th JCCT meeting. "President Obama's first China visit will surely provide new opportunities for bilateral cooperation."



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