Friday April 3, 2020


July 12, 2013

The fifth U.S.-China Strategic and Economic Dialogue took place in Washington, DC on Wednesday and Thursday. This joint dialogue has been held annually since 2008 in an effort to improve communication and cooperation between the U.S. and China on key bilateral issues. The dialogue alternates locations between Washington and Beijing.

The United States and China had delegates from over 20 government departments each participating in the discussions. Climate change, cyber security, cooperation in the Asia-Pacific, the global financial system, and economic and regional relations were all on the agenda.

President Obama’s special representatives, Secretary of State John Kerry and Treasury Secretary Jacob J. Lew co-chaired the sessions with Vice Premier Wang Yang and State Councilor Yang Jiechi, President Xi Jinping’s representatives.  This year’s dialogue was the first S&ED for all four co-chairs, highlighting the unique situation of simultaneous leadership transitions in the two countries.

John Kerry participated in the opening session of the S&ED but left early to be with his wife, who is currently in poor health. Deputy Secretary of State Bill Burns took his place.

Purpose of the Strategic and Economic Dialogue

The Strategic and Economic Dialogue was created in recognition of the importance of the U.S.-China relationship and the need for increased conversation, understanding, and cooperation between these two powerful and influential countries.

A U.S. official described the Dialogues as “an important opportunity to really bring together the senior level officials from across the two governments to be able to discuss and engage and, importantly, to make progress on issues of concern to both countries.” A research fellow at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences in Beijing provided a similar description: “The S&ED aims to promote the major-country relationship, while focusing on the big picture but also handling detailed issues involving relations between China and the US.”

Meetings recently held between the U.S. and China set the framework for this particular S&ED conference and its overall purpose and goals.  Secretary Lew met with Chinese leadership in March and Secretary Kerry visited Beijing in April. The most significant previous meeting, however, was the Sunnylands ‘Shirt-Sleeves Summit’ between Presidents Obama and Xi, held in California just last month.

Vice Premier Wang specifically referenced the meeting between the two leaders during his opening speech on Wednesday, noting that the purpose of “this round of dialogue is to turn the important consensus reached by the two heads of state into concrete achievements and to inject solid content into building the new type of major country relationship.”

Vice President Joe Biden launched the S&ED opening ceremony. In his speech, he said, “Competition can be good for both of us and cooperation is essential,” emphasizing the necessity of these dialogues.

Secretary of State Kerry reiterated this sentiment: “When the United States and ‪China work with each other, we both stand to gain a great deal. And we both stand to lose if we do not rise to that challenge.” He also advised, “We will never agree on everything, and we will have candid conversation on those issues where we don’t see eye-to-eye, because that is absolutely the best way to constructively manage our differences and increase understanding.”

In an opinion piece State Councilor Yang wrote on July 8, looking forward to the S&ED talks, he seemed optimistic about the future of U.S.-China relations: “As China and the United States differ in their histories, culture, traditions, social systems and stage of development, it is natural that there are differences between our nations. But both countries have ample wisdom to manage their differences and frictions.” He also placed a lot of weight on this relationship, calling it “an anchor for world peace and stability.”

Issue Areas

Over the two-days of meetings, many important bilateral topics were discussed. The future of the global economy, cyber security, cooperation in the Asia-Pacific, and the environment were all covered.

John Kerry wanted to make climate change a primary focus of this year’s dialogue. This focus follows an agreement made by Obama and Xi at Sunnylands to reduce dangerous hydroflurocarbon production. It is also on track with the climate change plan announced by Obama just a week after that summit. In order to facilitate discussion on this key issue area, special sessions were held on energy security and climate change.

Cyber security discussions began before the official S&ED opening ceremony. The inaugural Joint U.S.-China Working group on cyber security met on Monday. According to a U.S. State Department spokeswoman, the talks hoped to “enable the two sides to share perspectives on international laws and norms in cyberspace.”

One senior U.S. official said that during the conversations, “We were exceptionally clear … that there is a vast distinction between intelligence-gathering activities that all countries do and the theft of intellectual property for the benefit of businesses.”

The economic portion of the meetings aimed to ensure that a balanced and mutually beneficial bilateral trade relationship continues, to discuss their economic growth outlook, and to work together towards a stronger global financial system. Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke participated in sessions and met with officials from the Bank of China. A special CEO roundtable was also included in the schedule.


Analysis of the Strategic and Economic Dialogue began before the opening ceremonies even started. Experts posited about potential topics, challenges, and the unique features of this year’s sessions.

Some analysts also despaired about the lackluster results of the previous four meetings and maintained low expectations for the fifth round of dialogues, despite the positive momentum gained by the Sunnylands summit. While the utility of these meetings was questioned, the importance of fostering and maintaining high-level ties between the U.S. and China was clearly noted.

At the conclusion of the S&ED there were mixed sentiments about its success. Economic strides were praised while the conversations about cyber security seemed to have stalemated.

The co-chairs of the S&ED remained positive in the comments they made about the talks. Secretary Lew said, “While today’s commitments do not resolve all of the concerns of either side, they do represent real progress, progress that will create new opportunities for US workers and companies in an expanding Chinese market.”

Vice Premier Wang pointed to specific successes: “The fifth round of S&ED has achieved tangible fruits on a wide range of areas of long-term, strategic and overarching importance, including China-US Bilateral Investment Treaty.”

During closing remarks, Deputy Secretary of State Burns reminded the audience that “building a more constructive and cooperative relationship between the United States and China is vital to our future and will contribute to a more peaceful, stable and prosperous world.”

It is a renewal of this goal and the continuation of efforts to establish mutual trust and understanding that is perhaps the biggest success of the fifth U.S.-China Strategic and Economic Dialogue.

For more information about the S&ED, see the following news articles:

Newsroom America- Background Briefing on the Upcoming Strategic and Economic Dialogue and U.S.-China Relations

U.S. Department of State– “Your ‘Special Access’ Pass to the U.S.-China Strategic and Economic Dialogue

Xinhua– “China, US to discuss major issues in S&ED next week

BBC- US-China cyber security working group meets

Global Times– “China-US strategic dialogue to solidify gains from Xi-Obama summit

Washington Post– “U.S., China can forge a more cooperative relationship

The Guardian– “Climate change to top agenda at US-China talks

China Daily– “S&ED talks hit harmonious note

The Star- U.S.-China talks cover cyber issues, currency, Chinese reform

China-US Focus– “US-China Strategic and Economic Dialogue Needs More Substance

HRW-US: Learn Lessons From Past China Dialogues

China Digital Times– “Progress, Setbacks in U.S.-China Dialogue

Global Times– “China, US stresses progress in economy at S&ED talks

China Daily– “Talks provide a new map: Vice-premier

YouTube– “Dinner Honoring the U.S.-China Strategic & Economic Dialogue

For Chinese language news on the S&ED, see the articles below:

China News Service (中国新闻网)– “中美战略与经济对话今起举行 网络安全议题成焦点

People’s Daily (人民网)– “第五轮中美战略与经济对话今举行 网络安全议题受关注

Xinhua (新华网)– “美国媒体关注第五轮中美战略与经济对话

Reuters (路透)– “中美战略与经济对话在即 美议员呼吁美国强势施压

China Net (中国网)– “中美新一轮战略与经济对话:落实共识更重要

Sohu (搜狐)– “第五轮中美战略与经济对话联合开幕式致辞

Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs (中华人民共和国外交部)– “汪洋在第五轮中美战略与经济对话联合开幕式上致辞

China News Service (中国新闻网)– “访谈预告:专家解读新一轮中美战略与经济对话

IFeng (凤凰网)-第五轮中美战略与经济对话举行气候变化会议

YouTube– “中美战略与经济对话晚宴视频直播(备用频道)

Compiled and edited by Ariane Rosen