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V08: More Than Meets the Eye

October , 2015


A few notable events took place following Chinese President Xi Jinping’s first state visit to the United States in September, with the U.S. sending a warship to the disputed waters in the South China Sea garnering the most attention. On the surface, the move could be seen as a distraction, especially considering President Xi’s success in improving the somewhat pessimistic tone that preceded the visit. Yet, in reality, it is another reminder that the two nations have divergent strategic goals and that the relationship needs a lot of caretaking, most importantly deliberate efforts to remain focused on building better understanding and, ultimately, trust.

It is natural that relations between China and the U.S. will encounter problems, even cold spells. The recent episode in the South China Sea challenges both Beijing and Washington to remember what brings the two countries together. Cooperation is always better than confrontation.

“More than Meets the Eye’’ is the headline we selected for this issue because, as our contributors agreed, President Xi’s visit was not only “just in time” but also “more fruitful than expected.’’

Cheng Li of the Brookings Institution argues in the lead article that Xi succeeded in changing the somewhat pessimistic tone that preceded the visit, stabilizing the relationship and managing to go home with quite a few positive outcomes. 

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  • The true focus of Xi’s U.S. visit was not actually on China’s international dimensions. Instead, the visit was intended to promote economic and other reforms back home.

    Cheng Li

  • Substantively, the major message conveyed by the summit was of the world’s two major powers doing their best to work together on a broad menu of global-governance issues.

    David Shambaugh

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