A New Sino-American Relationship?

NEW YORK – The Strategic and Economic Dialogue between the United States and China has now ended with the establishment of a felicitous new atmosphere between the two countries. But how can this “love-in” be made concrete?

The most logical and potentially fruitful area of collaboration is climate change. Here, the two US government officials best equipped to lead are Secretary of Energy Steven Chu and Secretary of Commerce Gary Locke.

Chu is a former Berkeley and Stanford professor of physics and head of the Lawrence Berkeley National Lab, while Locke is a former Washington State governor and a long-time supporter of US-China commercial exchanges. Each packs the kind of soft, utilitarian powers of persuasion that Chinese leaders are most willing to embrace: academic degrees from prestigious universities, advanced scientific and technological knowledge, high office, and a Nobel Prize. (Chu is one of five ethnic Chinese to have won a Nobel, although no winner has yet come from the PRC, a fact that gnaws at Chinese pride.)

China’s press was abuzz over Chu and Locke, the first ethnic Chinese men to become US Cabinet Secretaries. Most major Chinese papers ran Chu’s photo on the front page, with Beijing Business Today running a cautionary headline: “Don’t Mistake the Visiting American Ministers as Relatives!” The paper went on to warn that, “In their own hearts, we are afraid that Chu and Locke put their priorities in exactly the opposite order.”