US State Secretary Condoleezza Rice made her second appearance in Beijing this year while Chinese State Councilor Tang Jiaxuan met with US President George W. Bush and other senior White House officials in Washington. China and the US also launched their bi-annual strategic talks to help manage their increasingly complex relationship with US Deputy Secretary of State Robert Zoellick meeting Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao, Vice Foreign Minister Dai Bingguo and the officials of China's National Development and Reform Commission.
Both sides called the bilateral talks successful, but US-China relations remain uneasy from several perspectives with the spat over textiles trade unresolved and CNOOC's controversial bid for Unocal ending in failure due partly to congressional opposition.
China's military build-up is also a sticking point, and a Chinese general's comments that Beijing could use nuclear weapons against the US in the event of a conflict over Taiwan led the US to seek Chinese assurances (which they got) that this was not the official thinking. Meanwhile, top US military official Gen Richard Meyers accused China and Russia of bullying smaller Central Asian countries following a statement by a Sino-Russian led regional alliance that urged the US to set a time table for withdrawing forces from bases in Uzbekistan and Krygyzstan. Fears of China's military expansion have been fanned by Pentagon assessments that China's military buildup poses a potential long-term threat to other regional armed forces. The US House of Representatives, in turn, passed a measure in August that would penalize European firms for selling US weapons technology to China.
Seeking to preempt further congressional backlashes over its growing military and economic strength, China is said to have hired a US lobbying firm to help soften its image, according to a Financial Times report.