Articles

US - China

Apr — Jun 2009
Download Article as PDF

Laying the Groundwork for Greater Cooperation

Connect with the Author

Bonnie S. Glaser
CSIS/China Power Project

After the completion of the first round of “get-acquainted” meetings aimed at laying the foundation for cooperation on a broad range of issues, both the U.S. and China agree that the bilateral relationship has gotten off to a good start.  While there is acute awareness on both sides of the challenges, there is a shared sense that their futures are inextricably linked and that cooperation is essential to global economic prosperity and security.  The quarter opened with the first face-to-face meeting between Presidents Hu and Obama on the sidelines of the G20 financial summit in London.  On separate visits to Beijing, Todd Stern, the U.S. special envoy for climate change, and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi underscored the importance of combating the effects of global warming.  U.S. Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner traveled to China to prepare for the first round of the Strategic and Economic Dialogue.  Washington sought China’s cooperation on pressing regional security issues, including North Korea and Afghanistan-Pakistan.  After an 18 month hiatus, the Defense Consultative Talks were held in Beijing, giving a desperately needed boost to the bilateral military relationship.

First Hu-Obama tête-à-tête

The quarter opened with the first face-to-face meeting between U.S. President Barack Obama and Chinese President Hu Jintao in London on the sidelines of the G20 financial summit.  The meeting produced three important outcomes: 1) Obama accepted Hu’s invitation to visit China later this year; 2) the two heads of state agreed to work together to build a positive, cooperative, and comprehensive U.S.-China relationship for the 21st century and to maintain and strengthen exchanges at all levels; and 3) the two sides established the U.S.-China Strategic and Economic Dialogue (S&ED), to be headed on the U.S. side by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Secretary of Treasury Timothy Geithner and on the Chinese side by Vice Premier Wang Qishan and State Councilor Dai Bingguo.  Topics discussed included the global economy, climate change, North Korea, Iran, Sudan, Taiwan, Tibet, human rights, Pakistan, and Afghanistan.

The hoped for establishment of a close personal rapport or at least “good chemistry” between Hu and Obama – admittedly difficult to achieve in a single meeting – seems to have not been realized.  In a background briefing on the leaders’ discussions, a senior administration official twice described the meeting as “business-like.”  By contrast, President Obama’s meeting with South Korean President Lee Myong-bak was depicted as “warm,” probably by the same senior administration official.  PRC media treatment of the meeting was generally upbeat, but betrayed Chinese concern that differences over Taiwan and Tibet could disrupt progress in bilateral ties.  Xinhua cited Hu as warning that while the situation in the Taiwan Strait is “continuing to ease and improve,” it “may change.”  Hu also called on the U.S. to “fully understand and respect” China’s stand on Tibet and oppose Tibetan independence.

Consultations between the two heads of state subsequently took place in two telephone conversations.  On May 6, Hu and Obama reportedly discussed bilateral relations, North Korea, South Asia, and the H1N1 flu epidemic.  On June 3, they exchanged views on the situation on the Korean Peninsula in the aftermath of North Korea’s second nuclear test.

Climate change emerges as early priority for Obama administration

House of Representatives Speaker Nancy Pelosi led a delegation from the U.S. Congress to China in late May on a working visit devoted mostly to energy and climate change issues.  Prior to her departure, she told a Capitol Hill press conference that she hoped to explore the possibilities for common ground so that “we’re able to seal the deal by the time we go to Copenhagen,” referring to the United Nations-sponsored climate conference planned for December in Denmark.  Speaking at a clean energy forum in Beijing, Pelosi characterized the climate change crisis as a “game changer” in U.S.-China relations, noting that “it is an opportunity that we cannot miss.”  The California Democrat also met President Hu Jintao, Premier Wen Jiabao, and her counterpart Wu Bangguo, head of the National People’s Congress.

The Congressional delegation left Beijing divided over whether their visit yielded progress.  Pelosi told a news conference that she was “hopeful” after their meetings that common ground could be reached on climate change.  Her optimistic assessment was echoed by Sen. John Kerry, who said he was encouraged by Chinese leaders’ commitment to tackling the consequences of global warming and impressed by China’s steps in recent years to enact tough vehicle fuel standards and expand its capacity for wind generation.  But Rep. F. James Sensenbrenner, the ranking Republican on the House Select Committee for Energy Independence and Global Warming who joined the delegation, said that he was discouraged by China’s refusal to commit to greater cuts in greenhouse gases while insisting that developed nations do more to reduce their emissions, according to the New York Times.  He criticized Beijing’s linkage of their proposed reductions to the size of China’s economy, which, he said, would result in “a significant increase in emissions in China.”

Widely known as an outspoken critic of China’s human rights record and specifically for unfurling a banner in Tiananmen Square in 1991 commemorating those who died there on June 4, 1989, Pelosi conspicuously refrained from mentioning human rights in public remarks while in China.  In response to critics, Pelosi insisted, however, that she did not shy away from raising human rights concerns with Chinese leaders.  After her return, Pelosi sought to reburnish her credentials as a staunch advocate of human rights at the Brookings Institution, where she stated that U.S. advocacy for protection of human rights in China has not achieved progress, adding that “somehow or other we have to find a way to do that.”

Two weeks after Pelosi’s visit, U.S. Special Envoy for Climate Change Todd Stern traveled to Beijing to press China to agree to hard numbers on emission reductions under the next treaty on global warming that will supplant the Kyoto Protocol Treaty that was negotiated in 1997, came into force in February 2005, and expires at the end of 2012.  Stern reportedly met China’s Climate Change Envoy Xie Zhenhua twice during his visit.  Vice Premier Li Keqiang reiterated to Stern China’s long-standing position that developing countries like China should be held to a different standard than developed countries.  “China would like to maintain the principle of ‘common but differentiated responsibilities,’ actively participate in negotiations and play a constructive role to promote positive results from the Copenhagen conference,” Li told his interlocutor.

So far, the gap between the U.S. and China remains wide.  China says the U.S. should reduce its greenhouse gas emissions by 40 percent below 1990 levels by 2020.  The bill that passed the House of Representatives at the end of June, which some view as too ambitious, would require U.S. emissions to decline 17 percent by 2020.  Both countries say they are committed to finding common ground for cooperation, however.  In a briefing on Stern’s visit, China’s Foreign Ministry spokesman said that China and the U.S. “had unanimously agreed, on the basis of the principle of common yet discriminative responsibility,” to strengthen their “partnership cooperation” on clean energy and climate change.  During Stern’s visit, an article on the China Daily website reported that although a “major breakthrough” eluded the two sides during the talks, they reached agreement to strengthen scientific cooperation in the fight against global warming.

Geithner visits the Middle Kingdom

On his first visit to China, Treasury Secretary Geithner encouraged China to keep up massive stimulus spending and diversify its economy away from a heavy reliance on exports, while offering assurances that Washington intends to protect the value of China’s investment in U.S. government debt.  His approach to dealing with the Chinese marked a radical shift from his predecessor, Henry Paulson, President George W. Bush’s Treasury secretary.  Whereas Paulson constantly prodded Beijing to allow its currency, the yuan, to rise in value against the dollar so that U.S. exports to China would be more affordable to Chinese, Geithner sought to persuade his counterparts to continue to buy U.S. Treasury bonds and to ease China’s concerns about the ballooning U.S. budget deficit.

In a speech to Beijing University, where Geithner was a student in the summer of 1981, he stressed that the steps taken now to address the immediate financial and economic crisis should lay the foundations for more balanced, sustained growth of the global economy. “How successful we are in Washington and Beijing will be critically important to the economic fortunes of the rest of the world,” he stated.  Geithner acknowledged the “special responsibility” that the U.S. has to play in creating a strong and stable international financial system and promised that after the U.S. recovers from the crisis it would cut the fiscal deficit, eliminate extraordinary governmental support that has been put in place to overcome the crisis, preserve the openness of the U.S. economy, and maintain the policy framework necessary for durable and lasting sustained non-inflationary growth.  He called on China to implement measures to raise household incomes and reduce the need for households to save large amounts, which will enable a shift to basing future growth on domestic demand.  In addition, Geithner pledged that the U.S. would fully support a greater role for China in the principal cooperative arrangements that help shape the international system.

In the Q&A following the speech, a Chinese student voiced concern about the security of China’s dollar assets.  Secretary Geithner began his response by stating that “China’s assets in the United States are very secure.”  He then paused as if he had completed his answer, prompting laughter from his audience.  Geithner also chuckled and then added: “Our financial system has begun its reconstruction, and the government will also maintain a strong dollar policy.”

Chinese officials seized the opportunity presented by Geithner’s visit to Beijing to signal their desire for a constructive working relationship with the Obama administration.  According to Xinhua, President Hu highlighted the two countries’ “extensive common interests” and “important responsibilities.”  Hu reportedly said that China is willing to “work alongside the United States” and “further strengthen dialogue and consultation.”  Hu and Geithner both noted the importance of the U.S.-China S&ED.  Hu called the new dialogue mechanism an “important platform for deepening understanding, mutual trust, and cooperation between the two countries.”  Geithner said the U.S. is looking forward to seeing positive results from the first round of the S&ED in July.

U.S. seeks China’s cooperation on regional security issues

Washington appealed to a reticent China to get more deeply involved in America’s two-front war with Islamist militants in Afghanistan and Pakistan, dubbed Af-Pak.  In mid-April, the Obama administration dispatched Richard Holbrooke, its special representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan, to China and Saudi Arabia as part of an effort to enlist the aid of key allies of Pakistan in the effort to stabilize the country.  Although China has been traditionally reluctant to interfere in the internal affairs of other countries, growing Chinese concerns about the militant threat near its western border that could destabilize the region and threaten China’s growing economic interests in Pakistan generated hope that the U.S. might be able to persuade Beijing to play a more active role.

The U.S. requested that China provide training and equipment to help Pakistan counter a growing militant threat.  In addition, Washington urged Beijing to use its good offices with the Pakistanis to press them to crack down harder on the insurgency.  The escalating war in Pakistan was high on the agenda when the U.S. and Chinese presidents spoke by phone on May 6 on the heels of President Obama’s meeting with the Afghan and Pakistani presidents.  A White House statement maintained that Obama conveyed his concerns about threats to Pakistan by militant extremists and terrorists.

U.S. appeals appear to have been heeded.  In mid-June it was reported that the Chinese were sharing intelligence and equipment with the Pakistanis and that the two countries were teaming up to fight what government officials called a “syndicate” formed between the Taliban and Chinese Muslim separatists.  To enhance Pakistan’s ability to police the border region, China reportedly offered to sell Pakistan $280 million in equipment, including vehicle and mobile scanners that can detect car bombs.

The U.S. also sought more help from Beijing in creating stability and promoting economic development in Afghanistan.  Among other requests, the Obama administration asked China to open an alternative logistics route through western China into Afghanistan.  In addition to being raised by executive branch officials, the proposal was broached by Congressman Mark Kirk (R-IL), co-chair of the U.S.-China working group, on a visit to China in May.  In a talk to the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) delivered with his co-chair Rick Larsen (D-WA) on June 8, Kirk noted that when he was in Beijing with Speaker Pelosi, he proposed to the Chinese that the U.S. and China seek to cooperatively provide assistance to the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) in Afghanistan.  Specifically, Kirk suggested that the Afghan government be permitted to purchase food and fuel in western China, which would benefit the economies of both Kashgar and Urumqi, while ensuring reliable deliveries of needed goods to ISAF.  “The U.S. and China are up against the same enemy – a very well funded radical Islamic narco-insurgency” that is challenging the public security bureau and the PLA on the Chinese side of the border and challenging the ISAF and Afghan government on the Afghan side of the border, he told CSIS.   Kirk revealed that he had received “pretty positive signals” from the Chinese government and upon his return had discussed what he learned with Ambassador Holbrooke.

Consultations also took place on Sudan when retired Air Force Maj. Gen. J. Scott Gration, President Obama’s newly appointed special envoy on Sudan, visited China on May 23, the first stop on a multination tour that included Qatar, Britain, and France to revive efforts to bring peace to Sudan’s western Darfur region.  Gration met with China’s Special Representative for Darfur Liu Guijin and discussed “deepening U.S.-China cooperation over shared concerns in Sudan.”

The most urgent regional security concern for the U.S. and China this quarter was North Korea, which undertook a series of destabilizing actions.  In early April, Pyongyang tested a long-range missile. Then, it conducted its second nuclear test in less than three years, declared its intention to withdraw from the 1953 Korean Armistice Agreement, and announced for the first time that it was prepared to use nuclear weapons in an offensive capacity.  Beijing and Washington worked closely in the UN Security Council along with the other UNSC members, Japan, and South Korea to forge a consensus first on a presidential statement condemning the missile launch and subsequently on a new resolution that tightened sanctions against North Korea.

In early June, U.S. Deputy Secretary of State James Steinberg traveled to Beijing after attending the Shangri-La Dialogue in Singapore and holding consultations in Japan and South Korea.  In addition to seeking Beijing’s support for harsher sanctions against North Korea, Steinberg attempted to engage the Chinese in a discussion about a more effective and longer term strategy toward the Korean Peninsula.  A Hong Kong Zhongguo Tongxun She report quoted Steinberg as saying: “Our visit is to discuss from a long-term angle how to establish peace and stability in Northeast Asia and how to meet the challenge brought by the DPRK nuclear program over a long time to come.”

While U.S.-Chinese coordination on North Korea, Sudan, Pakistan and other regional issues remains promising due to increasing overlap in the two countries’ interests, the absence of mutual strategic trust will continue to hamper effective cooperation.  Evidence of this lack of trust and suspicion of each other’s strategic intentions was apparent on several occasions this quarter.  Just one day after Presidents Obama and Hu discussed Pakistan by phone, China’s Ambassador to Pakistan Luo Zhaohui voiced concern about U.S. policy in the region in a speech to Pakistani business leaders.  Luo maintained that China was worried about the presence of a large number of foreign troops in Afghanistan and about the growth of “outside influence” in the region.  Luo declared that U.S. strategies needed some “corrective measures.”

U.S. suspicion toward Chinese intentions was evident in remarks made by Secretary of State Clinton at a town hall meeting at the State Department on May 1.  Criticizing the Bush administration’s attempts to isolate anti-U.S. leaders in Latin America, Clinton said that the U.S. can no longer afford such an approach, especially when competing for influence with countries like Russia, China, and Iran.  “If you look at gains, particularly in Latin America, that Iran is making and China is making, it is quite disturbing.  They are building very strong economic and political connections with a lot of these leaders.  I do not think that is in our interests.”

Military ties progress amid continuing confrontations in China’s EEZ

In a continuing pattern of confrontation between U.S. ocean surveillance ships and Chinese fishing and naval vessels, the USNS Victorious was harassed by Chinese ships 170 miles off the coast of China in the Yellow Sea on May 1.  As in the case of the incidents that were made public by the Pentagon in early March, the U.S. side claimed that the Victorious was engaged in routine operations in international waters.  China insisted that the presence of the U.S. ship in its Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) was illegal.  Although the series of dangerous encounters did not result in any damage to U.S. or Chinese ships, in a subsequent incident on June 11 a Chinese submarine reportedly collided with a towed sonar array trailing from the destroyer USS John S. McCain off the Philippines.  The official China Daily cited Chinese military experts as saying that the collision probably occurred due to a misjudgment of distance by the U.S. destroyer, which failed to detect the submarine, and the estimation by the Chinese sub that the McCain was not towing sonar arrays.

Recognizing the potential for accidents involving casualties and the detrimental effect that a major incident such as the April 1, 2001 collision by a Chinese fighter jet with a U.S. E-P3 surveillance plane could have on the bilateral relationship, U.S. officials made concerted efforts throughout the quarter to engage the Chinese in discussions about maritime safety and operational communication to avoid unwanted clashes.  President Obama discussed the naval confrontations with President Hu at the G20 summit meeting.  Adm. Gary Roughead raised U.S. concerns about unsafe maritime maneuvers conducted by Chinese ships in his meeting with PLA Navy chief Adm. Wu Shengli.  Commenting on the talks after his return, Roughhead told Defense News that he and Adm. Wu agreed “that we are going to disagree on the interpretation” of the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea.  He underscored his message to the Chinese was “that there should be nothing done to endanger our sailors or our ships that are operating there.”

In a May 15 online article, China Daily cited a senior Chinese military source as saying that the Chinese and U.S. navies were searching for ways to “alleviate disagreements” over international law on maritime rights.  The article quoted Adm. Robert Willard, commander of the Pacific Fleet, stating on the sidelines of the Shangri-La Dialogue that “the UN Law of the Sea permits military activity inside exclusive economic zones, and we’ll continue to do that.”  At the same time, Willard said the two nations are going to “have to work our way through” differences on maritime rights “so they don’t continue to escalate.”

A step was taken toward avoiding such dangerous maritime encounters at the 10th round of the Defense Consultative Talks (DCT), which was held in Beijing in late June.  The Chinese and U.S. sides, led respectively by Deputy Chief of the PLA General Staff Lt. Gen. Ma Xiaotian and Undersecretary of Defense for Policy Michele Flournoy, “expressed willingness to avoid a recurrence of recent incidents of confrontation between Chinese vessels and U.S. naval ships off China’s southern coast” and agreed to resolve such incidents “as carefully as possible” should they happen to occur again,” according to the China Daily.  Moreover, they agreed to discuss the dispute at a special meeting in August under the umbrella of the U.S.-China Military Maritime Consultation Agreement (MMCA), which was established in 1998 to improve maritime safety between the U.S. and China.

Other issues discussed at the DCT included North Korea, counter-piracy activities in the Gulf of Aden, the Obama administration’s Af-Pak strategy, U.S. arms sales to Taiwan, and U.S.-Chinese military exchanges.  The two nations agreed to a series of senior military-to-military activities and visits in the latter half of this year, some of which had been scheduled to take place in 2008 but were postponed due to China’s protests over the approval of a $6.5 billion weapons package for Taiwan last October.

A few weeks before the DCT, several Chinese complaints about the bilateral military relationship appeared on the China Daily website.  Maj. Gen. Jin Yinan, director of the Institute of Strategic Studies at China’s National Defense University, objected to the U.S. pinning blame on China for obstructing military exchanges.  He accused the U.S. of reversing its prior willingness to invite China to observe its “advanced weapons and key military training.”  Maj. Gen. Luo Yuan, a senior researcher with the PLA’s Academy of Military Sciences, warned the U.S. against asking “for China’s help without taking into consideration its security concerns and the opinion of ordinary Chinese.”

However, after the defense talks closed, China’s appraisal of both the talks and the military relationship was upbeat.  China Daily portrayed the talks as “more than an exercise in routine diplomatic courtesy as the two militaries reached substantial agreement on major issues of mutual concern.”  The newspaper hailed the agreement to exercise the “utmost discretion” at sea as indicating a “maturing of military relations based on mutual respect, trust, and benefit.”  At a press conference, Flournoy called the talks “constructive” and stressed the shared perspective that “engaging in continuous dialogue on strategic issues will lead to a much more sustained and cooperative relationship between the United States and China over time.”  She added that the U.S. hopes to build on the common interests that were identified to move the defense relationship forward.  Flournoy further stated that the U.S. does not view China as an adversary and that, despite differences, there are substantial issues on which the two countries can cooperate.

The only other notable U.S.-Chinese military-to-military interaction this quarter was a meeting between Secretary of Defense Robert Gates and Lt. Gen. Ma Xiaotian on the margins of the Shangri-La Dialogue in Singapore and talks between U.S. Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Roughead and Chinese Navy chief Adm. Wu in Qingdao during celebrations to mark the 60th anniversary of the founding of the People’s Liberation Army Navy.  Among the 21 foreign naval vessels from 14 countries that assembled in Qingdao to participate in an international fleet review was the U.S. missile destroyer USS Fitzgerald, a Japan-based ship from the 7th Fleet.

Looking ahead

The groundwork has been laid for strengthened bilateral cooperation but the issues are complex and the challenges are significant.  It remains to be seen whether cooperation will yield concrete results.  The first opportunity to achieve progress will be the inaugural meeting of the S&ED, which is scheduled to be held in July in Washington D.C.  In November, President Obama will make his first visit to China.  Wu Bangguo, head of the National People’s Congress, and Lt. Gen. Xu Caihou, vice chairman of the Central Military Commission of the Communist Party, will visit Washington before the end of the year. The United Nations conference on climate change in Copenhagen, Denmark in December will provide a test of both countries’ will and ability to find common cause in the interest of reversing the negative effects of global warming.

April 1, 2009: President Hu Jintao and President Barack Obama meet in London on the margins of the G20 financial summit.

April 2, 2009: Vice Premier Wang Qishan meets with Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner in London after the closing of the G20 financial summit.

April 5, 2009: Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi talks by phone to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to discuss North Korea’s missile launch.

April 7, 2009: The U.S. Treasury bans the Chinese firm LIMMT Economic and Trade Company, Ltd. and six Iranian companies from doing business in the U.S. on the grounds they were suspected of collaborating on a scheme to transfer nuclear technology from China to Iran. The Treasury also ordered their assets to be frozen.

April 8, 2009: Top Chinese legislator Wu Bangguo meets Sen. John McCain in Beijing.

April 9, 2009: Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman denies Chinese cyber-spies are hacking into America’s electrical grid.

April 9, 2009: Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman says that China opposes U.S. sanctions on a Chinese company that allegedly supported Iran’s nuclear programs.

April 11, 2009: Chinese State Councilor and Politburo member Liu Yandong leaves Beijing for an official visit to the United States. She meets Education Secretary Anne Duncan and signs a Joint Statement on Exchange and Cooperation in Higher Education and a joint bilateral work plan.  Liu also meets Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.

April 15-16, 2009: U.S. Special Envoy to Afghanistan and Pakistan Richard Holbrooke visits China.

April 15, 2009: In its semi-annual report to Congress on International Economic and Exchange Rate Policies, the U.S. Treasury Department says that China is not manipulating its currency to increase its exports.

April 18, 2009: Premier Wen Jiabao meets former President George W. Bush on the sidelines of the Boao Forum for Asia in Hainan Province.

April 19, 2009: U.S. missile destroyer USS Fitzgerald arrives in Qingdao to attend an international fleet review on April 23 to celebrate the 60th anniversary of the founding of the Chinese People’s Liberation Army (PLA) Navy.

April 21, 2009: U.S. Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Gary Roughead meets his counterpart Adm. Wu Shengli and Chinese Defense Minister Liang Guanglie in Qingdao.

April 27, 2009: A White Paper on the State of American Business released by the American Chamber of Commerce in China calls for the U.S. government to carry out a review and revision of “antiquated export control regulations.”

April 27, 2009: Chinese Vice Commerce Minister Zhong Shan summons Deputy Chief of Mission Dan Piccuta to protest the filing of two U.S. trade cases against China.

April 27, 2009: Chinese Commerce Minister Chen Deming meets U.S. Commerce Secretary Gary Locke in Washington DC for an in-depth exchange of views on the further development of Sino-U.S. economic and trade relations.

April 28, 2009: Chinese and U.S. firms, including China Mobile, Lenovo, Amway, Cisco, Dell, Emerson, EMC, Ford, Freescale and Hewlett-Packard, sign 32 trade and investment contracts worth some $10.6 billion at the end of the China-U.S. Trade and Investment Cooperation Forum.

April 29, 2009: The U.S. Department of Commerce launches anti-dumping and countervailing duty investigations into specific types of Chinese steel pipes used in oil and gas drilling.

May 1, 2009: The U.S. surveillance ship USNS Victorious is involved in a confrontation with Chinese fishing boats in the Yellow Sea.  The Pentagon claims the ship was engaged in routine operations in international waters but China insists that the activity was illegal.

May 1, 2009: Secretary Clinton voices concerns about gains made in Latin America by Iran and China, including strong economic and political connections with many of the region’s leaders.

May 4, 2009: Adm. Michael Mullen, chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff, says that China’s buildup of sea and air military power appears aimed at the United States.

May 6, 2009: President Hu and President Obama discuss bilateral relations, North Korea, South Asia, and the H1N1 flu epidemic during a telephone conversation.

May 14, 2009: Vice Foreign Minister He Yafei and Deputy Secretary of State James Steinberg hold political consultations in Washington DC on bilateral relations and international and regional issues of mutual concern.

May 15, 2009: U.S. lawmakers from the U.S.-China Working Group unveil four bills to “invest in America’s economic future” that are aimed at fostering closer relations with China on matters like trade, climate change, energy, and to boost Chinese language teaching in the U.S.

May 16, 2009: President Obama nominates Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman to be the new U.S. ambassador to China.

May 19, 2009: Foreign Ministry spokesman protests the “Foreign Relations Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2010 and 2011 (H.R.2410)” introduced by U.S. Congressman Howard Berman, chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, saying that it meddles in China’s domestic issues of Taiwan, Tibet, and Hong Kong.

May 23, 2009: U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi departs for Beijing, leading a delegation composed of four Democrats and one Republican, all members of the House Select Committee on Energy Independence and Global Warming.

May 23, 2009: Scott Gration, the US president’s newly appointed special envoy on Sudan, begins a visit to China and other countries.

May 27, 2009: President Hu meets House Speaker Pelosi in Beijing.

May 30, 2009: Lt Gen. Ma Xiaotian, deputy chief of the General Staff of the PLA, meets Secretary Gates on the margins of the Shangri-La Dialogue in Singapore.

May 31-June 2, 2009: Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner visits China to prepare for the first round of the U.S.-China Strategic and Economic Dialogue in July.  He meets President Hu.

June 2, 2009: General Motors agrees to sell its Hummer brand to Sichuan Tengzhong – a heavy industrial machinery company based in Chengdu, China – as part of its financial restructuring program.  The deal is reportedly worth over $500 million.

June 3, 2009: Anne-Marie Slaughter, director of the State Department’s Policy Planning Department travels to Beijing for consultations with MFA counterpart Le Yucheng and also meets Deputy Minister of Commerce Fu Ziying.

June 3, 2009: Presidents Hu and Obama hold a telephone conversation. They both commit to strengthening bilateral ties and discuss the situation on the Korean Peninsula.

June 4, 2009: On the 20th anniversary of the Tiananmen Square massacre, Secretary Clinton calls on China to “reflect upon the meaning of the events that preceded that day,” and “provide a public accounting of those killed, detained or missing, both to learn and to heal.”

June 5, 2009: Deputy Secretary Steinberg meets Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi, State Counselor Dai Binguo, and Vice Foreign Ministers Wu Dawei and He Yafei, on a trip to discuss policy toward North Korea in the aftermath of its nuclear test.

June 7, 2009: Todd Stern, U.S. special envoy for climate change, arrives in Beijing for talks with his Chinese counterpart Xie Zhenhua.  Stern is joined by joined by White House Science Adviser John Holdren and Assistant Energy Secretary David Sandalow.

June 9, 2009: PRC state media publicizes a Ministry of Industry and Information Technology regulation requiring “Green Dam-Youth Escort” Internet-filtering software to be “pre-installed” on all personal computers sold in China as of July 1.

June 9, 2009: China’s National People’s Congress and the U.S. House of Representatives wrap up their 10th meeting in Washington DC under a parliamentary exchange mechanism.

June 10, 2009: The U.S. releases four of the 17 Uighur prisoners being held in Guantanamo Bay to Bermuda and strikes a deal with Palau to resettle more of the Chinese Muslims. Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman demands that the Uighurs be returned to China.

June 11, 2009: A Chinese submarine collides with an underwater sonar array being towed by the destroyer USS John S. McCain off the coast of the Philippines.  A U.S. military official calls the collision an “inadvertent encounter.”

June 11, 2009: The U.S.-China Economic and Security Review Commission holds hearings on the implications of China’s naval modernization for the United States.

June 12, 2009: Special Envoy for Climate Change Stern says his recent trip to Beijing to discuss U.S.-China climate change issues was “productive” but did not achieve any “breakthroughs.”

June 19, 2009: The Chinese government disables some search engine functions on the Chinese-language website of Google, saying it was linking too often to pornographic and vulgar content.

June 22-23, 2009: Minister Wang Yi, head of China’s Taiwan Affairs Office, visits Washington DC for consultations with U.S. officials about Taiwan.

June 23-24, 2009: Undersecretary of Defense for Policy Michele Flournoy and Deputy Chief of the PLA General Staff Lt. Gen. Ma Xiaotian hold the Defense Consultative Talks in Beijing.

June 23, 2009: The U.S. and European Union file a petition with the WTO accusing China of unfair trade practices, saying it is restricting exports of raw materials to give Chinese manufacturers a competitive advantage.

June 25, 2009: The U.S. lodges a formal complaint with the Chinese government over its plan to require all computers sold in China to have web-filtering software, called “Green Dam-Youth Escort,” preinstalled by July 1, 2009.

June 26, 2009: Kurt M. Campbell is confirmed as United States Assistant Secretary of State for East Asian and Pacific Affairs.

June 29, 2009: Sichuan Tengzhong says its plan to buy General Motors Corp.’s Hummer unit is “still being examined,” saying regulatory and governmental approval have not been secured.

June 29, 2009: In its annual report on financial stability, the People’s Bank of China reiterates its call for the creation of a new international currency that could replace currencies such as the dollar in countries’ official reserves.

June 30, 2009: The Ministry of Industry and Information Technology announces China will delay mandatory installation of the controversial “Green Dam-Youth Escort” filtering software on all computers sold in China.

June 30, 2009: Ambassador Philip Goldberg heads an interagency delegation to Beijing and other countries for talks on implementing UN sanctions against North Korea.