The relationship between a rising power and an established power has always been a complicated one. Since the 16th century, there have been four major cases of rising powers interacting with established world powers – all resulting in conflict. However, during the recent state visit by Xi Jinping to the United States, both countries eagerness to seek cooperation was on full display.
Although the Obama-Xi meeting left plenty to be desired on disputed issues such as cybersecurity and the South China Sea, it was a significant and pleasant surprise that Xi softened some of the most pessimistic sentiments and disarmed suspicions in such a short time, highlighting respect for the U.S. and its people, in appealing words to the American public.
Contentious issues in cyberspace and the South China Sea were partly resolved through newly established joint working groups between the U.S. and China. The two heads of state were also able to agree upon 49 new cooperative projects, to increase bilateral cooperation as well as to increase China’s responsibility to the global community.
Given the rising hostility toward China in some American political circles, and the growing calls for a confrontational policy, the modest achievements made in the realms of cyber, the South China Sea, and North Korea are commendable.
Following President Xi’s recent visit to the U.S., Xi’s concept of “a new model of great power relations” seems to be back on the China-U.S. agenda. Originally pushed by Xi and now being reconsidered by Obama, this concept suggests a major turning point for both countries.
New agreements on collaboration in such areas as agriculture, grain production, civil aviation, high-speed railways, law enforcement, and military-to-military relations will further deepen interdependence. Xi’s visit has increased mutual confidence, reduced mutual suspicion, with achievements that made it a milestone in bilateral relations.
The Chinese president’s visit is the starting point for both sides to promote mutual trust, concrete cooperation and communication, which will brighten prospects for the bilateral relationship. The informal style of talks both leaders favor produce results that should ease lingering suspicions by hardliners in both countries.
China and the United States have a deep stake in each other’s success, just as the world has a deep stake in a strong and resilient China-US relationship. The Xi-Obama summits have been far more than “power strolls” for the cameras, and we are all better off because of them.
It may be too early to tell, but one would not risk ridicule by claiming that the just-concluded U.S.-China summit has accomplished its most important, albeit intangible, objective: temporarily arresting the downward spiral in the ties between Washington and Beijing.
The Xi-Obama meetings have demonstrated that China and the US can be frank and open with each other when addressing difficult issues. The result could be a new order in a multipolar world that better accommodates the needs and desires of the entire globe.
The 2015 Obama-Xi Summit must be judged a success. Although areas of disagreement are real and run deep, and not easily resolved progress was made, trust was built, and the two great powers on the planet have stabilized their relations. The question is: How long will it last?
On September 22, 2015, Chinese President Xi Jinping began a state visit to the U.S. Mr. Xi came at a critical moment, especially as recently there have been signs of emerging strategic rivalry in U.S.-China relations.
President Xi’s impending visit to the U.S. brings to the light the current state of the Sino-U.S. relationship in all its uncertainty. Strong communication between President Obama and President Xi will be key for cooperation.
As the United States enters a presidential election campaign and prepares for the first state visit of a new Chinese leader, the U.S.-China relationship is at an important inflection point.
If Americans focus on Chinese activities in the South China Sea, cyberspace, and the currency markets during the upcoming state visit of President Xi Jinping to the United States, they will be mistaking the urgent for the important.