American foreign policy concepts can be as fickle as fashion trends. The most recent catchphrase is "G-2", popularised by Zbigniew Brzezinski, and meant to reflect a necessary and desirable duopoly between the US and China. The Obama administration was seen as buying into this concept when it institutionalised a strategic and economic dialogue between the two countries last year. China, it was felt, could be engaged successfully, to the two countries' mutual benefit.
Obama's agenda for the bilateral relationship with Beijing was ambitious. Chinese cooperation was seen as vital to discouraging Iran and North Korea from pursuing nuclear weapons. On important multilateral initiatives, such as a breakthrough agreement on climate change and the resuscitation of the Doha Round of trade talks, Chinese cooperation was critical. Closer home, consultations with Beijing were required to gradually overturn the US's enormous trade deficit and plot a way out of the global financial crisis.
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