The Chen Guangcheng case could have been a disaster, but both countries proved how dedicated they are to working together, says Elizabeth C. Economy.
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Two developments signal a positive shift in U.S.-China relations--progress in last week's high-level talks in Beijing, and the two sides' efforts to cobble an agreement that would allow dissident Chen Guangcheng to leave China for the United States, says Elizabeth C. Economy, who directs Asia studies at the the Council on Foreign Relations. "Both sides are clearly committed to maintaining stability in the relationship and were very unwilling to allow this one striking and important incident to cause the relationship to spiral downward," says Economy. The two sides announced modest economic accords, including an agreement that foreign banks would be allowed a higher stake in Chinese banks, and an agreement to cut import tariffs on some consumer goods. "In the context of the Chen Guangcheng situation," says Economy, "the fact that they were able to announce anything positive is a real compliment to both sides."
Do you think China will let this Chen deal go through?
This deal is a significant accomplishment on the part of China and the United States. I certainly hope Beijing will follow through on it. It wouldn't seem to be in China's interest to block the deal at this point; the international outcry would be significant. Frankly, getting Chen out of China likely has its benefits for Beijing: It gets him off the radar screen in China--particularly on the Internet, where his case was followed with some interest--and minimizes the likelihood that he could cause trouble while he was studying law someplace in China, which was promised in the first deal.