China Power

Time to Wake Up?

An hour-long phone call tops off a noticeably brighter week in Sino-US relations.

So was it all just a bad dream? Just a week or two ago, commentary pages around the world abounded with stories of an impending—if not already full-blown—crisis in Sino-US ties. There was Barack Obama’s decision to meet the Dalai Lama, tensions over Google and above all the US arms sale to Taiwan.

But the tone this week has shifted noticeably. Obama and Chinese President Hu Jintao spoke for an hour on the phone Thursday night on issues including possible new sanctions on Iran, China’s demands over Tibet and Taiwan and economic tensions between the two.

Obama is said to have reassured China that the United States does not support a unilateral declaration of independence by Taiwan, while Hu is said to have made conciliatory remarks on how the two countries should work together to defuse economic strains; China also announced yesterday that Hu will attend a non-proliferation conference later this month in Washington.

The China Daily unsurprisingly has spun this as the United States making the overtures, with its editorial today ‘US patching things up.’ But whoever is responsible for initiating the unusually long call between the two from Air Force One, the fact that Obama decided to offer such a reassurance on Taiwan’s status suggests both sides felt the air needed clearing.