In an ambitious two-day summit in Washington, top officials from the United States and China met this week to discuss a wide range of issues. Everything from the climbing US deficit to North Korean missile programs was on the agenda as the two countries worked to put their relationship on a more solid footing.
The meeting's tone was a change from past US-China summits, when the US has been the one to level accusations and make demands of its Asian rival. With China holding massive amounts of American debt in the form of Treasury securities -- up to $1.5 trillion, by some estimates -- Washington has been scrambling to reassure the Chinese that the US economy is stable and the dollar will hold its value.
At the same time, the two countries discussed foreign policy issues, including China's increasingly belligerent client and neighbor, North Korea.
German commentators watched the proceedings warily, wondering where China's interests lie and whether Europe will be pushed to the political margins if Washington pushes ahead with a kind of G-2 with Beijing.
Spiegel Online's Washington correspondent writes:
"Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has really gotten the diplomatic routines down pat in the last six months. But right now she's laying things on especially thick. Clinton stands before the assembled journalists, next to the head of the 100-person strong Chinese delegation that's come to Washington for two days of talks, and really lets it fly. 'Thorough, comprehensive, very open' are the words she uses to describe the two days of talks. She throws in 'direct' and 'very useful' for good measure."
"Enthusiastic words, even for a top diplomat who's practically obliged to be welcoming. And Clinton wasn't alone with her praise. ... President Barack Obama sounded like a visionary in his address: 'Cooperation, not confrontation,' he said, should be the goal with China. The US-Chinese relationship would shape the 21st century."
"That's perhaps the most important message of this meeting, which many experts see as carving a sort of 'G-2' alliance in stone. A new world order, where the US and China will set the tone."
Center-right Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung writes:
"America and China are talking with each other. The word 'partner' comes up a lot. China is certainly cautious that no one puts one over on them, especially not a competitor. This is especially true when it comes to raw materials, something a growing economy like China's is naturally very interested in. But Beijing is also following a strategy that uses negotiation and cooperation as waystations on the road to control and dominance."
"This alone is a good reason America should be wary of adopting partnership with China as a model for the future. Not all of its neighbors are thrilled that China is accumulating so much power -- including a number of US allies. Even when great powers decide to sacrifice the interests of their smaller clients, Washington should remember that it needs all the friends it can get at this point. And China shouldn't talk about responsibility but instead act on it -- for example, in the case of North Korea, and in the case of Iran."
The center-left Süddeutsche Zeitung writes:
"America is rarely this softspoken. They're not quite kowtowing, but bowing quite low to greet the dignitaries from China who have traveled to Washington for a two day bilateral strategy and economic summit. Gone are the days when US politicians made long (and honest) speeches about human rights to the powers that be in the Middle Kingdom. Likewise, they've abandoned the old ritual of criticizing the way China subsidizes its exports through artificially low exchange rates."
"Instead, it is exercising humility. Washington knows what it owes Beijing: The Chinese hold US bonds worth at least $800 billion in their hands. No other nation in the world is in as much debt at America."
"Secretary of State Hillary Clinton praises this dialogue as a new beginning. And Barack Obama says the two nations will lead the world into the 21st century. Those are big words -- but the relationship the two powers find with each other remains an open question. Still, Americans -- like the Chinese -- are smart enough not to waste time thinking about a third party. And no one at this summit will be talking about Europe, the Old World."