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Foreign Policy

Xi-Trump Summit Has Drawn the Blueprint for China-U.S. Ties

Apr 11 , 2017
  • Su Xiaohui

    Deputy Director of Int'l & Strategic Studies, CIIS

Talks between President Xi Jinping and his US counterpart Donald Trump were held on April 6-7 at Mar-a-Lago resort in Florida. It was the first China-U.S. summit since the Trump administration came to power. The interaction of the two leaders was viewed as the indicator of bilateral relations’ future.

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On the whole, the first face-to-face meetings of the leaders were positive and productive. From four perspectives, achievements were made that support the relations between the two countries.

First, the meetings have set the tone for China-U.S. relationship. Both sides attached great importance to the development of bilateral ties and made clear their willingness to cooperate. President Xi emphasized the necessity of working together for a better relationship. Since the China-U.S. relationship is one of the most important bilateral ties in the world, the good relations not only benefit the two countries and people from both sides, but also bolsters world peace and prosperity. Xi reaffirmed that “cooperation is the only correct choice for China and the United States”. The U.S. side valued the opportunity of high-level communication. President Trump said during the meetings that both countries were making “tremendous progress” in forging a cooperative relationship.

At the same time, China and the United States have realized that the two major powers are unlikely to totally see eye to eye to each other; the two have different political systems and development modes, as well as values and cultures. In this context, it is vital for both sides to agree on crisis management. Fortunately, both presidents highlighted the principle of managing differences based on mutual respect.

Second, the meetings have addressed obstacles to building the bilateral relationship. China-U.S. relations cover many levels and issues. Mechanisms play a key role to realize effective communication. During Xi’s visit, the two countries established a new set of high-level frameworks for negotiation, including the diplomatic and security dialogue, the comprehensive economic dialogue, the law enforcement and cybersecurity dialogue, and the social and cultures issues dialogue.

The building of the mechanisms will serve as pillars of bilateral ties. The four dialogues will be used to support communication, improve mutual trust, expand cooperation and manage differences.

Third, the meetings have initiated progress for deepening the relationship. China understood the interests and demands from the U.S. side, and discussed issues including economic and trade relations. Facing with the U.S. specific focus on trade deficit, China suggested that the U.S. take a balanced view of the issue, that it is unwise to turn to protectionism and worsen the environment for economic cooperation. Meanwhile, China supported dealing with trade frictions in an appropriate way. China also stressed that both countries have been important trade partners for each other. Economic contacts have benefited both sides and the key principle for cooperation has been win-win. To resolve the problems in a fundamental way, China proposed making a bigger cake out of cooperation, so that both countries would be able to gain more profits. What is more, China underlined the need for openness. President Xi extended an invitation to President Trump, asking the U.S. to join in the cooperation under the framework of Belt and Road Initiatives.

Except for trade, the Chinese leadership reiterated China’s positions on some delicate issues like Taiwan, Tibet and the South China Sea, in order to reduce the risk of miscalculation by the United States. Both leaders also talked about regional and international issues. President Xi explained China’s view of the developments in the Korean Peninsula and the deep-rooted problems of the DPRK nuclear issue, and asked the U.S. to work with China to resume talks and maintain regional stability. Currently, the Trump administration is still in the process of setting policies for foreign affairs. The exchange of views between the presidents will be helpful for the U.S. to have a profound understanding about related situations.

Last but not least, the meetings have paved the way for the future of the bilateral relationship. Both sides fixed plans for more high-level contacts, and Trump has accepted the Chinese president’s invitation to visit China later this year. It is expected that the leaders will remain in close contact. Frequent exchanges will lead to better understanding and further progress in the relations.

The United States arranged for President Xi’s visit to Mar-a-Lago resort in a considerate way, creating pleasant circumstances for the talks. After talks, meals and walks, both presidents and their wives got to know one another. Both sides set up a working relationship and shared friendship.

The Xi-Trump summit has once again highlighted the interdependence between China and the United States. As the largest developing country and the largest developed country, China and the United States have been trying to get along with each other in a better way. Both sides have gained experiences in promoting cooperation as well as addressing problems.

The summit played a role as a starting point for the relationship to enter a new stage, drawing a blueprint for the relationship’s prospects.

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