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China upbeat over Kerry’s prospects as top diplomat

By Yang Jinghao Source:Global Times Published: 2013-1-31 1:13:01

Veteran US Senator John Kerry Tuesday sailed through a Senate confirmation for his nomination as secretary of state to replace Hillary Clinton.

Analysts expect the new top US diplomat's extensive diplomatic experience and skills to boost mutual understanding between China and the US and reinforce bilateral ties against the backdrop of Washington's pivot to Asia.

Kerry, 69, could be sworn in as secretary of state as early as Friday, when Clinton is scheduled to step down.

In a statement issued after the confirmation of Kerry, who has served at the Senate Foreign Relations Committee for 28 years, US President Barack Obama expressed great expectations of him.

"From his decorated service in Vietnam to his decades in the Senate as a champion of American global leadership, John's distinguished career has prepared him to guide American diplomacy in the years ahead," said Obama.

Ruan Zongze, a deputy director with the China Institute of International Studies, told the Global Times that compared with Clinton's tough diplomatic approach, Kerry, as a "moderate" Democrat, is expected to stress the role of bilateral or multilateral dialogues.

Ni Feng, a deputy director with the Institute of American Studies at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, told the Global Times that during Obama's first term, US foreign policy was largely dominated by Clinton. But with Kerry taking over the post, his diplomatic measures will greatly embody Obama's concepts.

Speaking at his confirmation hearing to a Senate panel on January 24, Kerry said it was "critical" to strengthen the relationship with China, hoping that the new Chinese leadership will also recognize the need to "sort of broaden the relationship with us in return."

"China is cooperating with us now on Iran. I think there might be more we could perhaps do with respect to North Korea," he said.

Kerry has paid quite a number of visits to China and is viewed by analysts as a politician who knows the country well.

As early as 2004, during his presidential campaign, Kerry stressed the importance of the partnership with China, and said that the US should adhere to the "One China" policy in regard to the Taiwan question.

The US has shifted its pivot to the economically dynamic Asia-Pacific region and many of its policies, in particular the support to its allies that have territorial disputes with China and its military pivot to the region, have increased the concerns of Beijing.

In last week's hearing, Kerry appeared to rule out any move toward a further increase to the US military force in the Asia-Pacific region.

"I'm not convinced that increased military ramp-up is critical yet," Kerry said, adding that if confirmed he wanted to "dig into this a little deeper" and try a thoughtful approach.

"We have a lot more bases out there than any other nation in the world, including China today," he argued, saying the Chinese must be wondering, "What's the United States doing? They trying to circle us? What's going on?" Kerry asked.

Ruan said the new secretary of state will carry forward the strategy of the pivot to Asia, but unlike his predecessor, who only focused on the military, Kerry is likely to adopt diverse measures to build up its presence in this region, including economic and cultural strengthening.

"The Obama administration is faced with a lot of difficulties both at home and abroad, and provoking China will also leave it isolated," Ruan said.

Reviewing Clinton's legacy, observers said that while winning praise for her peripatetic tenure, Clinton's "iron hand" also drew a lot of criticism from the international community.

"Undoubtedly, she was quite a capable secretary of state who was devoted to maintaining the interests of the US. However, she is not a strategist, but a politician who is enthusiastic about 'performing,'" said Ni.

Ruan said despite controversies surrounding her push for the US pivot, Clinton made certain contributions in promoting the relationship between the US and China by initiating mechanisms for dialogue.

Agencies contributed to this story

Posted in: Diplomacy, Americas