AFP - The United States appealed on Monday for far-reaching cooperation with China to combat the global economic crisis ahead of the most in-depth talks between the two sides since Barack Obama's election.
Obama was set to inaugurate the two-day dialogue, part of the US president's push to build a broader relationship between the biggest developed and developing economies.
With China increasingly uneasy about its massive exposure to the US economy, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner made a joint appeal to Beijing to work together to spur global growth.
"Simply put, few global problems can be solved by the US or China alone. And few can be solved without the US and China together," Geithner and Clinton wrote in an article published Monday in The Wall Street Journal.
The duo, who will lead the US side in the talks, argued that measures by Washington and Beijing to create and save jobs helped the world at large weather its worst economic turmoil since the Great Depression.
"The success of the world’s major economies in blunting the force of the global recession and setting the stage for recovery is due in substantial measure to the bold steps our two nations have taken," they said.
"As we move toward recovery, we must take additional steps to lay the foundation for balanced and sustainable growth in the years to come."
No major announcements were expected in the Washington talks but a flurry of press briefings could shed some light on the sometimes fraught relationship of the two intertwined goliaths.
State Councillor Dai Bingguo and Vice Premier Wang Qishan are heading the Chinese delegation to the "Strategic and Economic Dialogue," which broadens talks with China on the economy set up Obama's predecessor George W. Bush.
Charles Freeman, a China expert at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, a Washington think-tank, said the dialogue's main purpose was to build confidence between Washington and Beijing.
"While the United States and China have developed an increasingly close relationship over the years, there still remains a fundamental sense of mutual strategic mistrust," Freeman said.
The United States, along with close US ally Japan, has voiced concern about Beijing's rapid military build-up; Chinese and US ships have repeatedly confronted each other at sea.
Beijing's human rights record has also long been a sore point, with many US lawmakers dismayed over recent ethnic violence in China's Muslim-majority Xinjiang province that left at least 192 people dead.
China is the largest creditor to the United States and has voiced growing concern about the fragility of the dollar and the safety of its more than 750 billion dollars invested in US Treasury bonds.
Zhu Guangyao, assistant finance minister, told reporters in Beijing that China would press the United States to ensure the safety of its investments.
"As an important investor, China is deeply concerned about the US economic situation and hopes the US stimulus policy could make effective progress," Zhu said.
He Zhicheng, a senior economist at the Agricultural Bank of China, expected the two sides to talk less about economics than about strategic issues, including Xinjiang.
But He said that the economic crisis has weakened US leverage over China.
"The US are more dependent on China than during the Bush period," He said. "In the financial crisis, China was in a better position than the US."
At the same time, both sides have indicated that long-standing trade and currency frictions will figure prominently in the discussions.
The massive US trade deficit with China, Washington's second-largest trading partner, swelled to an all-time high of 266.3 billion dollars in 2008 and keeps growing.
US critics accuse Beijing of keeping its yuan currency artificially low to gain a trade advantage and protect its crucial export sector.
The dialogue is also expected to touch on global warming. The United States and China are the world's top carbon emitters and have been at loggerheads in the countdown to a December meeting in Copenhagen aimed at drafting a new global climate treaty.