Analysts said Beijing and Washington "made one step forward" this week in advancing working-level pragmatic discussions on managing differences, as senior diplomats from both sides convened in Washington DC for a China-U.S. consultation on Asia-Pacific affairs, which was the first of its kind.
Topics including the Taiwan question and the South China Sea were high on the agenda of the talks held by Vice-Foreign Minister Sun Weidong and Daniel J. Kritenbrink, United States Assistant Secretary of State for East Asian and Pacific Affairs, they noted.
The consultation took place on Wednesday at the invitation of the U.S. side "in accordance with the recent consensus reached between China and the U.S.", the Foreign Ministry said in a statement on Friday.
The two sides "had a candid, in-depth and constructive exchange of views on China-U.S. relations, the situation in the Asia-Pacific region, their respective regional policies, as well as international and regional issues of common concern", according to the statement.
Sun elaborated on China's position on the Taiwan question, making it clear that the one-China principle "is the cornerstone of peace and stability in the Taiwan Strait".
He also stated China's position on the U.S. "Indo-Pacific Strategy" and the South China Sea.
At the talks, the Chinese side stressed that "benign interaction between China and the U.S. in the Asia-Pacific is in line with the common interests of both sides and is also the common aspiration of the region's countries".
The two sides agreed to continue to maintain communication on Asia-Pacific affairs, according to the Foreign Ministry.
"We do not avoid competition, nor do we fear it, but competition should be benign, sincere and should promote mutual development. We oppose hostile and dangerous competition," Chinese Ambassador to Panama Wei Qiang told local media on Tuesday.
Chinese Ambassador to the U.S. Xie Feng told a National Day reception in Washington on Wednesday that "peaceful coexistence is the bottom line that the two countries must secure".
Observers noted that the consultation in Washington was part of the consensus reached at an meeting earlier this month in Malta between Wang Yi, a member of the Political Bureau of the Communist Party of China Central Committee and director of the Office of the Foreign Affairs Commission of the CPC Central Committee, and U.S. National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan.
At the Malta meeting on Sept 16, the two sides agreed to hold three China-U.S. consultations on the Asia-Pacific, maritime affairs and foreign policy.
The consultation in Washington was focused on working-level affairs, engaging officials at the vice-ministerial level, said Wu Xinbo, dean of Fudan University's Institute of International Studies.
"Areas such as the Asia-Pacific have seen intense contradictions and differences between Beijing and Washington. Working-level consultations in these areas can improve exchanges on each other's positions and concerns, and help them explain their respective policy intentions," Wu said.
"Such consultations will also help the two sides to see where the differences are, to explore how to narrow and manage them, and even to see whether there is any possibility of cooperation in these areas," he added.
When meeting with visiting former U.S. Treasury secretary Henry Paulson in Beijing on Tuesday, Wang Yi said it is not in the interests of the two peoples to see China-U.S. relations at a low point, and he expressed his hope that "the U.S. side could return to the track of being rational and pragmatic and take tangible actions".