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A New Model for China-US Relations?

Nov 10 , 2014

U.S. President Barack Obama is visiting China for the first time since 2009, and following the APEC Summit will hold his fourth meeting with China’s President Xi Jinping. The two leaders are expected to meet in an informal setting, as they did at Sunnylands in California last year, when Xi Jinping first met Obama as president and put forward the concept of “New Type of Major Powers Relations” to guide the growing complex relations between the two countries.

Unfortunately, there has been little evidence of positive progress since last year’s summit; instead, the bilateral relationship has been marked by growing tensions and even setbacks. Whether it be the China seas, the ADIZ, or U.S. surveillance conducted in China’s exclusive economic zone (EEZ), tensions between China and U.S. are running high. On maritime disputes, their positions and perceptions are almost diametrically opposed. In the economic sphere, China and the U.S. are engaging in a kind of unspoken competition, with Washington’s Trans-Pacific Partnership pitted against Beijing’s Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership. The U.S. worries about an increasingly assertive China, while China suspects the U.S. of pursuing a policy of encirclement and containment.

Clearly, the China-U.S. relationship is not a new model of relations and interactions between a rising power and the established power. Rather, it shows all the classic manifestations of the rising power/established power historical dynamic. That begs a question: Is a new model possible?

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