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China’s Communist Paper Calls for Closer U.S. Ties Under Xi

China and the U.S. should deepen cooperation and become more interdependent, the Communist Party’s flagship newspaper said in a commentary today, signaling that new leader Xi Jinping may seek closer ties.

The People’s Daily commentary, written by the same author who has criticized U.S. motives in Asia in the past, included comments from experts in U.S.-China relations such as former White House National Security Council Asia directors Kenneth Lieberthal and Douglas Paal.

“Given the complex changes in the international situation, Sino-U.S. cooperation and coordination are more urgent and important than ever before,” the article said, before printing the experts’ opinions in question-and-answer format. It said the U.S. and China must “ceaselessly use cooperation to deepen mutual interdependence and create a win-win situation for China-U.S. relations and for the world.”

The commentary appeared less than a week after Xi succeeded President Hu Jintao as general secretary of China’s ruling Communist Party. Relations between the world’s two biggest economies have been strained by the U.S. pivot toward Asia, which Chinese state media have said could embolden U.S. allies such as Japan and the Philippines in territorial disputes.

The publication of the commentary suggests that Xi, who visited the U.S. in 1985 and returned for an official visit in February, is seeking warmer ties and better communication with the U.S., said Zhu Feng, a professor of international relations at Peking University in Beijing.

Important Moment

“Both countries just finished off leadership renewals, so I think it’s a very very important moment,” Zhu said. “This is not just a signal but it’s a good reflection of Xi’s personal commitment to improve relations with the United States.”

Paal served in the administration of former President George H.W. Bush, while Lieberthal worked under former President Bill Clinton. Other experts quoted in the commentary included Undersecretary of State Robert Hormats and Stapleton Roy, U.S. ambassador to China from 1991 to 1995.

Today’s commentary was written by Zhong Sheng, who wasn’t identified. Commentaries under the same byline in the past year have criticized U.S. policy on the South China Sea and Iran. On July 9, Zhong Sheng wrote that the U.S. pivot toward Asia exacerbated tensions in the region.

The People’s Daily yesterday published remarks in which Xi told fellow leaders that the party could “perish” unless they address corruption and social unrest. Peking University’s Zhu said the two articles highlighted Xi’s priorities as he takes over leadership.

Xi spent time in Iowa in 1985 learning about U.S. farming techniques. He returned to Iowa in February on a visit in which he also met President Barack Obama. Xi is set to take over the ceremonial post of state president from Hu in March.

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