The talks, which start on Wednesday, will be led by U.S. Secretary
of State John Kerry and Treasury Secretary Jack Lew, likely taking
in China's currency, North Korea's nuclear program and escalating
tensions between China and neighbors in the South China Sea and with
Japan in the East China Sea.
Charges over hacking and Internet spying have increased tensions
between the two countries. In May, Washington charged five Chinese
military officers with hacking U.S. companies, prompting Beijing to
suspend a Sino-U.S. working group on cyber issues. China has denied
"We share an interest in a secure and predictable and orderly cyber
environment," said one senior U.S. administration official, who
briefed reporters en route to Beijing for the annual Strategic and
"We see the bilateral U.S.-China working group as an important forum
and vehicle for fulfilling our responsibilities and for making
progress, so we certainly would like to see the earliest practical
resumption of that forum."
A second U.S. official added: "One of the fundamental differences is
on this question of the acceptability of cyber-enabled economic
espionage, which the United States does not conduct. We need to come
to a clear understanding with the Chinese about that. That is going
to be essential to resolving our concerns about Chinese behavior."
Kerry will likely a face an angry riposte from Chinese officials,
who view the U.S. as hypocrites following revelations about
Washington's own spying by former U.S. intelligence contractor
Edward Snowden, and were angered in May when the U.S. charged the
five Chinese military officers with hacking.
"We believe the U.S. side deliberately fabricated the facts,"
Chinese Assistant Foreign Minister Zheng Zeguang said on Monday,
referring to the officers' indictment.
"This proves the U.S. side is not sincere in resolving Internet
security issues through dialogue and cooperation."
In addition to political and security issues, the talks will also
focus on China's currency and a bilateral investment treaty, which
the U.S. hopes will loosen Beijing's restrictions to allow for a
more level playing field for U.S. companies.
Lew has said he will push China to speed up economic reforms and do
more to let the yuan rise against the dollar. Kerry will raise
growing U.S. concerns over escalating tensions and China's
"problematic behavior" in the South China Sea, officials said.
The officials said the U.S. would call on China and other countries
to clarify their territorial claims by ensuring they are consistent
with international law.
"It is our observation that ambiguity about claims can be
destabilizing and can lead to confrontation and even conflict," the
The United States has not taken sides in the disputes but has been
critical of China's behavior in the oil-and-gas-rich South China
Sea, where the Philippines, Vietnam, Malaysia, Brunei and Taiwan
have overlapping territorial claims.
[to top of second column]
China, though, views the United States as encouraging its allies
Vietnam and the Philippines to be more aggressive in the dispute.
Along with the numerous other areas of disagreement, the this week's
talks may not achieve much, said Jia Qingguo, dean of the School of
International Studies at Peking University who has advised the
government on diplomatic issues.
"I don't foresee many tangible results emerging. The relationship is
at a low ebb. The role of SED now is to buttress the relationship to
prevent a further deterioration," Jia said.
Still, China and the U.S. appear to have had more success in finding
common ground over North Korea's nuclear and missile programs.
The administration official said there had been a "steady
convergence of views on both the importance and the urgency of
moving North Korea to take irreversible steps to denuclearize."
"Particularly in the week of President Xi's visit to Seoul, we see
value in building out U.S.-China cooperation, strengthening our
consensus on the importance of denuclearization and refining further
our strategy," the official said.
The annual high-level talks between the U.S. and China have yielded
few substantive agreements, in part because relations have grown
more complex with China's increasing power.
Still U.S. officials underscore the importance of the discussions to
help ensure that the relationship doesn't drift towards
"The U.S.-China relationship is a motion picture. It shouldn't be
looked at as a snap shot," one official said. "It is that grand epic
big Hollywood motion picture in which there are a lot of actors and
a lot of interests at stake, and the trajectory of any particular
issue takes time to play out."
U.S. officials cited climate change as one area where China and the
United States could collaborate on a global issue.
"This is a classic example of an area of a global challenge for
which U.S.-China cooperation is an essential ingredient of any
long-term solution," one official added.
(Additional reporting by Ben Blanchard; Editing by Nick Macfie)
[© 2014 Thomson Reuters. All rights
Copyright 2014 Reuters. All rights reserved. This material may not be published,
broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.