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Can US, China Work Together on Economic, Security Issues?


U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, U.S. Treasury Secretary Jacob Lew, and U.S. Special Envoy for Climate Change Todd Stern participate in a climate meeting with Chinese State Councilor Yang Jiechi and Chinese Vice Premier Wang Yang during the U.S.-China Strategic and Economic Dialogue at the U.S. Department of State in Washington, D.C., on June 23, 2015. (State Department photo)

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, U.S. Treasury Secretary Jacob Lew, and U.S. Special Envoy for Climate Change Todd Stern participate in a climate meeting with Chinese State Councilor Yang Jiechi and Chinese Vice Premier Wang Yang during the U.S.-China Strategic and Economic Dialogue at the U.S. Department of State in Washington, D.C., on June 23, 2015. (State Department photo)


Hundreds of Chinese diplomats are in the United States this week for meetings with U.S. officials. The two sides were expected to discuss issues such as computer security and tensions in the South China Sea.

The meetings are known as the U.S./China Strategic and Economic Dialogue. This is the seventh dialogue between the world’s top two economies. VOA spoke with a China expert who described relations between the two as complex. But she said the countries can deal with their differences so long as they continue talking.

US and China have a lot to talk about

On Monday, State Department official John Kirby described this week as important for relations between the United States and China. He said the two sides have a lot to talk about.

“We are looking to expand our bilateral cooperation on many global challenges, such as climate change, development, humanitarian assistance, pandemic response and ocean conservation. We will also have the chance to coordinate U.S. and Chinese policies on regional issues like Iran, Iraq and Syria, North Korea and Afghanistan, and we will also address areas where we have ongoing differences, such as maritime disputes, cyber-security and human rights. As we have said many times, the United States is firmly committed to improving its relationship with China.”

Mr. Kirby admits that the U.S. and China disagree about a lot of things. But he says each country recognizes there are many areas where cooperation is good for both sides. He describes the dialogue as one of the most important tools for discussing disputes and building support for common interests.

Bonnie Glaser is an expert on China at the Centers for Strategic and International Studies in Washington, DC. She expects little to result from the dialogue. But she says it is important that U.S. and Chinese officials continue to talk and identify areas of disagreement and how those disputes can be controlled.

On Wednesday, U.S. and Chinese officials are expected to talk about strategic issues. Ms. Glaser says there is general agreement among the two sides about how to deal with North Korea, Iran and Afghanistan.

Cybersecurity is a major issue

She says computer security may be more important than any other issue at the discussions. Earlier this month, the U.S. Office of Personnel Management said it had discovered a four-month long attack on its computers in April. It said the attackers had stolen information about as many as four million current and retired federal employees. Investigators say it appeared the attack was launched from somewhere in China.

State Department spokesman John Kirby said the U.S. has not accused anyone of the crime. He said the attack is still being investigated.

China suspended talks on computer security after the United States charged five members of the Chinese military with computer crimes in May 2014. The U.S. said the five stole economic secrets and attacked the computer systems of American nuclear, metals and solar companies.

Ms. Glaser believes the US is discussing the theft of the federal records with Chinese officials.

“I would imagine the Chinese are going to want to see proof of attribution. I don’t know whether the United States is willing to share sources and methods on that issue, but I think the US is going to try and convey to China that, if it has done this, it has overstepped the boundaries of what is acceptable.”

Ms. Glaser says there is added importance to the dialogue because it is happening just a few months before Chinese President Xi Jinping visits the United States. And she says China appears to be sending signals that it wants to reduce tensions.

Ms. Glaser rejects the belief that relations between the two sides could get worse. She says both countries have wise leaders, and many Americans and Chinese have taken part in cultural exchange programs. She says both countries need each other if they are to be economically secured. She says eight U.S. presidents have supported a policy of engagement with China. She says that policy is the right one -- for both the United States and China.

I’m Bob Doughty.

VOA’s Victor Beattie reported on this story from Washington. Christopher Jones-Cruise adapted it for Learning English. George Grow was the editor.

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Words in This Story

dialogue – n. a discussion or series of discussions that two sides have in order to end a disagreement

bilateral – adj. involving two groups or countries

pandemic – n. a situation in which a disease spreads very quickly and affects a large number of people over a wide area

conservation – n. the protection of animals, plants or other natural resources

coordinate – v. to organize; to act or work together well

maritime – adj. of or relating to sailing or doing business by sea

committed – n. willing to give time or energy something

strategic – adj. of or relating to a general plan that is created to reach a goal, usually over a long period of time

solar – adj. of or relating to the sun

attribution – n. a process in which someone explains the causes of something

sources – n. someone or something that provides what is wanted or needed

convey – v. to make (something) known to someone

engagement – n. the act or state of being involved with something

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