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To be nearer and dearer through rights dialogue   2010-05-14 13:34:00

China and the U.S. will soon resume dialogue on human rights after a two-year standstill. The last formal meeting between the two countries to discuss human rights was in May 2008. When President Barack Obama visited China last November, the two countries agreed to a new round of dialogue in February this year. But the meeting was rescheduled after the U.S. infuriated China with an arms sale to Taiwan in January, Obama's meeting with the Dalai Lama in February, and disputes over the value of the RMB. The May 13-14 meeting in Washington, D.C., will have on its agenda issues including religious rights, rule of law and Internet freedom.

The agenda alone is telling enough of the sensitivity and formidability of the dialogue. Although the two countries remain largely divided on the concept of human rights, regular dialogue is a constructive effort toward greater understanding and concordance. So, let's hope that this dialogue can contribute to the improvement of relations between the two global giants to become nearer and dearer.

Relations improving

The upcoming human rights dialogue is worth our concern for its symbolic meaning rather than its practical output. It shows that China and the U.S. have not only regained strength out of the world financial crisis but also healed former fractures between them and are now resuming a new ardency for engagement. Therefore, to some extent, this dialogue marks a "renormalization" of relations.

Relations between the two powers have always progressed in twists and turns because of differing interests and concerns, politically, economically and ideologically. But as long as the two sides are ready to sit down at a table to communicate with each other, there is always possibility that we can achieve understanding and find solutions and impossibility that we should fall back to hostility and antagonism.

This round of dialogue will be the first of its kind for Obama and thus, by observing the event, we may catch a glimpse of the latest orientation of Obama's China policy. Obama took office in the heat of a financial crisis and pressed ahead with an ambitious domestic agenda, making his China policy somewhat obscure. So this upcoming dialogue may give us a clearer picture and help restore relations back on the trajectory for fast development and close interaction.

Enlarge common ground

China and the U.S. do have a lot of common ground as major "stakeholders," to quote World Bank President Robert Zoellick. The point is how to further enlarge the common ground to make it safer and more enduring. This undoubtedly calls for more earnest mutual understanding and particularly a change in the US mentality. Two principles are worth highlighting.

First, while human rights embody universal values, they should also make allowances for specific national conditions. The U.S. is doing better than most countries in securing and protecting human rights. But it also has its own problems and limitations. On the other hand, although human rights in China leave so much to be desired, great progress has been made in all its social undertakings, including human rights in the past 30 years. China has guaranteed its people's right to subsistence and is striving to further fulfill their right to development. More importantly, the Chinese people's awareness of civil rights and constitutional rights is quickly improving, which gives good reason to believe China will continue to make breakthroughs.

source :     editor:: Isabella
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