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Keywords in China-US relations in 2013
New type of great power relationship


The China-US relations continued to be complicated in 2013. On the one hand, the economic and military cooperation strengthened and the mutual trust grew; on the other hand, irritants like Snowden’s escape to Hong Kong and near collision of the two countries’ warships in the South China Sea marred the relationship. However, the acts and attitudes of the two countries never strayed away from building of a “new type of great power relationship”.

Nevertheless, it is difficult to explain what the “new type of great power relationship” is. According to China, it is based on mutual respect, mutual benefit and win-win partnership; but the US insists on settling inevitable conflicts and coming up with new solutions to old problems.

As the US ambassador to China Gary Locke said in 2013, "China-US relations are a long and complicated project". The simple diplomatic language masks the complicated nature of the relationship. In fact, it is also difficult to find a common interpretation in the Chinese foreign affairs research community.

Shen Dingli, vice dean of the Institute of International Affairs of Fudan University, said in an interview with the China Press that the keywords of this year can be summarized as “a relationship where cooperation and conflict coexisted.” For example, the US told its civil aviation industry to follow the rules of China’s air defense identification zone (ADIZ) while sending two B52 bombers to challenge the rules.

Zhu Feng, professor of the School of International Studies of Peking University, disagreed with Ding. He used the word “deepening” to describe the China-US relations in 2013. He said cooperation and competition has long coexisted between China and the US and breakthroughs have been made since the concept of the “new type of great power relationship” was put forward. For example, the two countries have stood the test of the Snowden case, strengthened communication over South Korea and agreed on the issue of Iran nuclear. However, the conflict over the East Sea is still intensifying, which is inevitable in the great power relationship.

A research report released by China Strategic Culture Promotion Association and Carnegie Endowment for International Peace at the end of 2013 shows that most elite Americans and Chinese and 45% of the Chinese public see each other as a rival, with only 15% of the American public and 12% of the Chinese public consider each other as an enemy. The research covered 2,500 Chinese people and 1,000 Americans.

The author of the report, Michael Swaine, said the elite and the public of the two countries are highly skeptical of each other, but many of them admit that the relations between the two countries need to be improved and the bilateral collaboration needs to be strengthened.

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