BEIJING: China and the United States on Wednesday launched high-level talks, with Chinese President Xi Jinping urging the world’s two biggest economies to break old patterns of confrontation.
Given their different histories and cultures “it is natural that China and the US may have different views and even frictions on certain issues,” Xi told the opening of the two-day annual talks in Beijing.
“This is what makes communication and cooperation even more necessary,” he urged, speaking in the same imposing compound where then US president Richard Nixon met Mao Zedong on his groundbreaking visit to China in 1972.
The sixth annual Strategic and Economic Dialogue comes as tensions between the two nations have risen in recent months, wracked by maritime disputes, as well as US fears over cybersecurity and Chinese hacking.
“Our interests are more than ever interconnected,” Xi insisted, saying the two nations “stand to gain from cooperation and lose from confrontation.”
“If we are in confrontation it will surely spell disaster for both countries and for the world,” he said, adding the Pacific powers needed to “break the old pattern of inevitable confrontation.”
“One can ill afford a mistake on fundamental issues, a mistake that may possibly ruin the whole undertaking,” he added.
In a statement sent to the opening of the meetings, US President Barack Obama agreed saying: “The United States and China will not always see eye-to-eye on every issue.”
That was “why we need to build our relationship around common challenges, mutual responsibilities, and shared interests, even while we candidly address our differences,” Obama said.
The American president, who has made the so-called pivot to Asia a focus of his administration, will return to the Chinese capital in November when it hosts a key summit of Asia-Pacific leaders.
US Secretary of State John Kerry, who is leading Washington’s team with Treasury Secretary Jack Lew, told the delegations the US was committed to a “new model” of great country ties with China.
“We have a profound stake in each other’s success”, he insisted.
“It is not lost on any of us that throughout history there has been a pattern of strategic rivalry between rising and established powers,” he said.
Us welcomes rising China
But Kerry sought to address Chinese concerns, insisting “the United States does not seek to contain China, we welcome the emergence of a peaceful, stable, prosperous China that contributes to the stability and development of the region and chooses to play a responsible role in world affairs.”
“We may differ on one issue or another but when we make that difference, do not interpret it as an overall strategy,” the top US diplomat stressed.
The talks come as China and its neighbors have stepped up patrols of disputed territory, raising fears of a clash with US security ally Japan in the East China Sea, while incidents in the South China Sea have included rammings, the use of water cannon and arrests of fishermen.
While Xi did not address the territorial issues directly, he repeated that China was committed to establishing “friendly relations with its neighbors and beyond.”
Kerry will also seek to persuade China to reinstate a cybersecurity working group in a bid to draw up rules for using and protecting the Internet.
The new group, which has only met twice, was cancelled by Beijing after the US indicted five Chinese military officers for hacking into US businesses—charges dismissed by China as “intentionally fabricated.”
Other issues high on the agenda include climate change, wildlife trafficking and nuclear-armed North Korea, following a visit last week by Xi to Seoul.
This year marks 35 years since the establishment of formal US-China ties, and trade between the two giants ballooned to more than $520 billion last year, or a quarter of the world’s total trade.
Lew welcomed Beijing’s commitment to economic reforms, saying both nations “depend on an open global trading system in which workers and companies can compete on a level playing field.”
“A prosperous China that grows in a way that is consistent with international rules and norms will contribute to the strong, sustainable and balanced growth of the global economy,” Lew added.