3 Hurdles to U.S.-China Economic Dialogue

The escaped activist is only one concern for negotiators seeking economic cooperation.

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But even if no major agreements are reached, the talks won't have been useless. "I think there will be progress made, but it really depends on how you define that," says Frisbie.

Economy agrees that immeasurable progress has been made in the very basic area of communication. "I think the greatest accomplishment of the Strategic Dialogues has not been on any particular issue, but rather on the capacity of policymakers in the United States to understand better the political dynamics at play in China on various issues," she writes.

Danielle Kurtzleben is a business and economics reporter for U.S. News & World Report. Connect with her on Twitter at @titonka or via e-mail at dkurtzleben@usnews.com.