by Liu Tian, Wei Jianhua
BEIJING, Jan. 4 (Xinhua) -- After a year of ups and downs in China-U.S. relations, are the two giants heading for collision or cooperation in 2012, in the context of global economic woes and U.S. presidential elections?
The answer is not clear, partly because of the contradicting messages from Washington in the past year. President Barack Obama said his country would conduct sound cooperation with China in the beginning but later met with the Dalai Lama, approved arms sales to Taiwan and interfered in the South China Sea issue.
Last year, China overtook Japan to become the world's second-largest economy after the United States, and the power shift has got on nerves of the world's sole superpower, which has long been plagued by economic woes and unemployment.
Undoubtedly, China-U.S. relations are to undergo a new round of "stress test" in 2012 as this year will be politically sensitive due to the presidential elections in the United States and a number of other sensitive issues.
In election year, U.S. presidential hopefuls would probably repeat a traditional China-bashing game to gain popularity. Take Republican front-runner Mitt Romney as an example, the former Massachusetts governor has been drumming up China threat in economic, military and cultural fields.
Trade is another hot issue as it is often attached to the exchange rate. Some U.S. politicians assume that China artificially devalues its currency to gain advantage for its exports and that the exchange rate is the root cause of trade imbalances between the two countries.