Achieving a US-China Strategic Understanding

ALBERTA – Relations between the United States and China have been at a low point in recent months. Tensions over US arms sales to Taiwan, President Barack Obama’s meeting with the Dalai Lama, disputes over the value of China’s currency, a supposed snub of Obama by Chinese leaders at December’s Copenhagen climate summit, and the rupture between Google and China have all played a role.

But President Hu Jintao’s visit to Washington for the nuclear security summit, which followed a phone conversation between him and Obama, has set the stage for a serious and calm exchange of views on a range of bilateral and international issues, including Iran’s nuclear program. This calming of the diplomatic atmosphere was helped considerably by US Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner delaying his

report to Congress on whether or not China is a currency manipulator. Geithner even made a quick stop in Beijing on April 8 to meet Chinese Vice Premier Wang Qishan, prompting reports that China may let the renminbi float more flexibly.

Nevertheless, before anyone concludes that US-China ties are warming up, it is worth noting that the two countries have starkly different views on how to manage their relationship.