Trade Resources Policy & Opinion Ten Keywords for China-U.S. Relations in 2015

Ten Keywords for China-U.S. Relations in 2015

Throughout 2015, the world has watched with great interest the development of China-U.S. relations, as many believe almost every interaction between the world's top two economies has a bearing on all major global issues.

Here are some keywords that reflect the most discussed topics and eye-catching events regarding China-U.S. relations in the past year, which Xinhua has sifted from tens of thousands of relevant media reports and online talks.


Nearly three years after assuming office, Chinese President Xi Jinping paid his first state visit to the United States in late September, which was described by both sides as a "milestone" in bilateral ties.

Xi's tightly-scheduled four-day tour featured a grand welcome ceremony with a 21-gun salute, a White House state dinner, meetings with U.S. President Barack Obama and senior administration officials, keynote policy speeches, and face-to-face interactions with leading political figures, business executives and ordinary Americans. A total of 49 tangible outcomes were announced following the presidential talks, which Obama said were "extremely productive."

Most experts in China and the United States hold that Xi's visit and his meeting with Obama exceeded expectations in stabilizing bilateral relations through constructive management of differences and practical cooperation on priority issues.


Following last year's landmark pact that committed both countries to large emissions cuts, a joint presidential statement was issued during Xi's visit, outlining ambitious goals to push for a global climate pact at a UN-backed summit in Paris.

U.S. officials praised it as "a significant step forward in U.S.-China leadership on climate change" and "a critical precursor" to a successful global climate agreement. And the UN climate chief said that China "has taken an undisputed leadership" in global climate efforts.

As a landmark climate accord was finally reached in Paris last week, experts say that Beijing and Washington would continue to play a key role in its implementation and the world's long-term battle against global warming.


U.S. figures show that China has become the fastest-growing national investor in the country, with investment in real estate, hospitality and technology services taking the largest share. Chinese foreign direct investment (FDI) in the United States is estimated to surpass 10 billion U.S. dollars in 2015, the third year in a row.

Meanwhile, U.S. investment in China also remains stable, as Chinese authorities pledge to stick to the opening-up policy and seriously address foreign investors' concerns regarding market access, fair competition and legal protection.

China and the United States are also working on a high-standard Bilateral Investment Treaty (BIT), with both governments saying that they would take it as a "top economic priority."


According to a U.S.-China Business Council report, U.S. exports to China surged 198 percent in the past decade, with an annual average growth of 13 percent, and China now ranks among the top three export destinations for 39 of the 50 U.S. states.

Boeing has turned out to be the biggest winner of 2015, pocketing a huge Chinese order of 300 aircraft worth a total of 38 billion dollars.

With bilateral trade growing to 591 billion dollars in 2014 from a mere 2 billion dollars in 1979, leading economists like Nobel laureate Joseph Stiglitz have noted that the economic interests of China and the United States are intricately intertwined, and that China's growth is complementary to that of the United States.


Latest statistics show that over 274,000 students from China attended U.S. schools in the 2013-14 school year, accounting for 31 percent of all international students and contributing an estimated 22 billion dollars to the U.S. economy.

Meanwhile, the Chinese government is financing 50,000 Chinese and American students to study in each other's country over the next three years, and the U.S. side is endorsing an initiative to have 1 million American children learning Mandarin Chinese in schools by 2020.

The year 2015 has continued to see big-spending Chinese tourists flock to the United States. In the previous year, China became the sixth-largest source of inbound tourism to the United States, and a whopping 23.8 billion dollars were spent by the shopping-crazed Chinese tourists.


The United States has repeatedly expressed its so-called "freedom of navigation" concerns over China's land reclamation activities on some islands and reefs in the South China Sea, and even sent warships to patrol within 12 nautical miles (about 22 km) of the Chinese islands and reefs in late October despite China's strong opposition and condemnation.

China has clearly stated that it has "no intention to militarize" those islands and reefs, and that the main purpose of its construction activities is "to meet various civilian demands." It has also stressed that "freedom of navigation and aviation" in the region "has never been a problem and will never be a problem in the future."

While some pessimists see the South China Sea issue as a source of tension that could set China and the United States on a "course of collision," many others, including renowned strategist Henry Kissinger, believe that leaders of both countries are smart and sensible enough to well manage all kinds of differences and find a way to fix them.


On many occasions, U.S. government departments such as the Department of Defense and the Federal Bureau of Investigation alleged that "China-sponsored" cyber attacks led to the leak of government information and theft of U.S. companies' commercial secrets. However, no convincing evidence was made public in most of the cases.

A victim of cyber crimes itself, China has firmly denied all U.S. allegations and accusations, and repeatedly called for international cooperation and coordinated efforts to safeguard cyber security.

In a major breakthrough in this area, the two countries convened earlier this month in Washington their first ever ministerial dialogue on cyber security, as a follow-up to a bilateral anti-hacking agreement signed in September. A hotline will also be set up for the joint fight against cyber crimes.


Though the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB) drew 57 countries to sign up as founding members, the United States opted to stay out of this China-proposed institution, which many believe is a "necessary supplement" to the existing global lenders and development funds.

And when the Obama administration largely succeeded in sealing the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) trade deal, touted as the world's biggest in two decades, China was conspicuously left out of it, causing many to doubt the practicality and future of the U.S.-backed new trade regime.

Analysts say that after the 2008 global financial crisis, the world has been in need of governance reforms, which won't be possible without U.S.-China consensus and cooperation. In this sense, the late November decision by the International Monetary Fund (IMF), in which the United States has a big say, to add the Chinese currency Yuan to its elite basket of reserve currencies can be seen as a positive sign.


As China's massive anti-corruption campaign went international with the issuance of a global wanted list for 100 suspects at large, U.S. assistance was sought as that nearly 40 of the fugitives were believed to be staying in the country.

While differences in legal systems and the lack of an extradition agreement have created practical difficulties, the United States has made clear that it advocates good governance in China and supports international cooperation against corruption. Some of those on the wanted list have been taken into custody for illegal activities in the United States, with at least one having been repatriated to China.

The Paris terror attacks, the bombing of a Russian passenger jet over Sinai, Egypt, and the brutal killings of hostages committed by the notorious Islamic State (IS) extremist group have alerted the world about an ever-growing threat of terrorism. While the United States is pushing for an international coalition against the IS, China also calls terrorism "the public enemy of human beings" and has vowed to "resolutely crack down on any terrorism crime that challenges the bottomline of human civilization."


In his observation of China-U.S. relations earlier this year, Henry Kissinger pointed out that "historically the challenge of rising countries has been to increase tensions with the established powers," but China and the United States can find a new model "based on the partnership of potentially adversarial countries in the building of a new and peaceful world."

To achieve that, the two countries need to continuously build mutual trust, accurately understand each other's intentions, and fully recognize that they have significant common interests to work together on many issues in spite of some differences, experts on international relations in both countries have suggested.

The outgoing year has witnessed not only President Xi's historic visit, but also a series of platforms and mechanisms for the two sides to sit down together and have in-depth exchanges and discussions, such as the Strategic & Economic Dialogue in Washington D.C. and the Joint Commission on Commerce and Trade in Guangzhou, China. Even amid much media hype surrounding the so-called "South China Sea standoff," Chinese naval vessels paid goodwill visits to Florida and Hawaii, while a U.S. destroyer also docked at Shanghai for a friendly visit. 

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