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Mutual respect would set right tone for discussions: China Daily editorial

chinadaily.com.cn | Updated: 2021-07-22 20:45

Wendy Sherman. [Photo/Agencies]

That finally both Washington and Beijing have affirmed US Deputy Secretary of State Wendy Sherman's visit to China, scheduled for Sunday and Monday, is an important and positive signal for bilateral ties.

It hardly matters how the two parties put it — Beijing saying Sherman will "hold talks" with a vice foreign minister and then "meet" State Councilor and Foreign Minister Wang Yi, and Washington stating she would "meet" Chinese officials including Wang. It would be like making a mountain out of a molehill to make an issue of this, since improving the soured relationship between Washington and Beijing is the priority.

A US State Department spokesman claimed on Wednesday the visit is intended to show China "what healthy and responsible competition looks like" and to make sure that "competition doesn't veer into conflict" by ensuring there are "guardrails" in the relationship.

Beijing will no doubt want to show the US the same. Yet, since the two sides have been at odds on what such competition entails, the "guardrails" are of critical significance to ensure their wayward relationship doesn't veer into a crisis. These safety barriers, therefore, deserve special attention during the discussions in Tianjin.

It is obvious from Sherman's visit that Beijing and Washington share the desire to manage the relationship. Likewise, it is patently clear that there are areas where Chinese and US interests converge. Climate change being only the most obvious one.

So as well as helping the two sides to responsibly manage the relationship, some even hope they may help set the stage for a potential meeting between the Chinese and US leaders.

But what happens next depends on how candid the exchanges are, and how any consensus is acted on.

The latest US accusations of cyberattacks, and human rights abuses, as well as corresponding sanctions against Beijing show Washington is still adopting a confrontational approach to the relationship. Not to mention that during her stay in Japan, Sherman and her Japanese and South Korean counterparts affirmed trilateral cooperation against China.

Washington insists it intends to compete and cooperate with Beijing wherever necessary. And Sherman is expecting to compare notes with the Chinese side and identify those areas. Beijing, however, attaches greater importance to first fostering a conducive political atmosphere for cooperation.

That's why the Chinese Foreign Ministry made clear China's determination to safeguard its sovereignty, security and development interests and demanded that the US stop interfering in China's internal affairs ahead of Sherman's visit.

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