China, U.S. boost ties against terrorism
By Willy Wo-Lap Lam
CNN -- Presidents George W. Bush and Jiang Zemin have agreed to boost ties based on a common understanding on fighting terrorism.
However, major bilateral differences on issues such as Taiwan and human rights have remained unresolved, casting doubts on the extent to which bilateral relations can really improve.
Jiang pointed out after their two-hour tete-a-tete on the fringes of the APEC meetings in Shanghai that the two countries would strive to develop a "constructive, cooperative relationship."
In a joint press conference, Jiang said both sides would engage in "high-level strategic dialogues" to push forward cooperation in trade and international affairs.
Jiang added he and Bush had reached "a series of consensus" on fighting global terrorism and on maintaining world peace.
Bush praised China's decision to be "side by side" with Americans in the anti-terrorist campaign, particularly in areas such as the exchange of intelligence and freezing the terrorists' finances.
The American president also indicated he was after a "candid, constructive and cooperative" relationship with China.
However, Bush made no concessions in areas such as Taiwan or lifting sanctions on the export of high technology to China.
In discussions with Jiang, Bush merely made a pro-forma reiteration of Washington's long-standing one China policy.
And at the press conference, Bush urged Beijing to "preserve regional stability" when dealing with Taiwan.
The U.S. leader also gave an implicit warning that Beijing should not take advantage of the current climate to suppress the Uighur minority in Xinjiang.
"The war on terrorism must never be an excuse to persecute minorities," Bush told Jiang.
Moroever, Bush hinted at the lack of progress in political reform in China, saying at the press conference that "economic and political freedoms must go hand in hand."
Diplomatic analysts in Shanghai and Beijing said both governments needed to work harder to ensure that the momentum generated by joint anti-terrorist efforts would remain substantial enough to render differences on Taiwan and other issues less of an impediment to ties.
The analysts said however, that the Sino-U.S. understanding on combating terrorism might erode if the military action in Afghanistan were to grow larger or if it were to spill into another country such as Iraq.
Jiang warned at the press conference that anti-terrorist military actions must have "clearly defined targets" and that they must avoid hurting innocent civilians.
Chinese experts are more optimistic about the future development of Sino-U.S. ties.
Shanghai specialist on U.S. affairs Pan Guang said both sides had found something in common and the consensus on fighting terrorism would "provide a good opportunity for both countries to move forward in cooperation."
Foreign affairs expert Li Kwok-keung, a member of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference, said both sides seemed eager to seize the chance to boost ties.
"It is true that Bush has made no concession on Taiwan," said Li. "However, Beijing knows the U.S. is unable to fight wars on two fronts."
He added as long as the war on terrorism was on, it was doubtful whether the U.S. would have the energy to boost ties with Taiwan or to use such ties against China.
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