By Li Haidong
Following US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson’s Beijing trip, the upcoming China-US summit has become the topic of heated discussions for media and think tanks. An early meeting, anticipated by many, will play a significant role to consolidate and promote the Sino-US relationship.
The Beijing-Washington relationship is at a critical transitional stage, and thus, requires timely coordination and guidance from top leaders. Since the Cold War, the continuity of China-US cooperation has depended upon economic integration, which is the ballast stone for bilateral relationship, as well as the maintenance of a stable international system, which is a bond for strategic collaboration.
The surge of Sino-US trade volume from $2.5 billion in 1979 to $519.6 billion in 2016 is a proof of their highly-integrated economy. Meanwhile, Beijing’s practices to integrate into the international system and Washington’s strategy of integration toward China have brought multi-layered collaboration between the two, such as anti-terrorism, anti-piracy and opposing Taiwan independence.
However, the administration of former US president Barack Obama’s strategy of rebalancing to the Asia-Pacific region, which is highly militarized and aimed to marginalize China in the area, has severely weakened the Sino-US strategic basis for consolidating the international system and jeopardized their potential to create an integrated economy.
US current President Donald Trump, on the other hand, is rapidly erasing Obama’s diplomatic legacies and is drafting his own China policy in this context. This provides an opportunity for the two countries to improve their bilateral ties. Effective guidance and collaboration between top leaders from China and the US are urgently needed to consolidate the pillars of the Sino-US cooperation and to shape the prospects for bilateral ties.
In addition, Trump lacks diplomatic experiences and his China policy is still unpredictable. A meeting with Chinese President Xi Jinping will help Trump profoundly understand China’s Washington policy.
Trump has won the US election thanks to his keen political insight and his understandings of public appeals, but he has yet been able to view China and the Sino-US relationship in a comprehensive and objective way. This means he may make mistakes in handling US ties with China. Meeting with Xi is the most direct and quickest way to shape Trump’s view on China, and will lower the possibility of the Trump administration making policies that undermine Sino-US cooperation. Therefore, an early China-US summit will play a vital role to ensure the healthy and stable development of the Beijing-Washington relationship.
Admittedly, remarks Trump and his team members made earlier on China’s trade, Chinese currency’s exchange rate and the role Beijing should play in North Korea’s nuclear issue are worrisome. And Trump has already started to implement his campaign promises on migrants, the Trans-Pacific Partnership and other issues. But, the Trump administration’s tough words on China have yet been made into policies and the final Beijing policy has yet taken shape.
During Tillerson’s Beijing trip, his statement on the principle of no conflict, no confrontation, mutual respect and win-win cooperation has instilled hope in the Sino-US relationship, but whether the principle is agreed by all members of Trump’s administration and whether it will be implemented by Trump is still unclear. A timely China-US summit may be the start of a healthy and stable Sino-US relationship and set a positive tone for bilateral ties in the next four years.
China, the US and the international order have witnessed fundamental changes. With strong comprehensive strength and international influences, China and the US have common goals of maintaining social vitality and improving the current international system by deepening reforms so as to guarantee global stability. Tillerson proposed to pursue a “constructive” and “results-oriented relationship” with China, and this conforms to China’s win-win policy toward Washington. Both countries are aware that there are a number of thorny issues waiting to be addressed in the bilateral relations, and that cooperation is the only solution. A China-US summit will push the Beijing-Washington relationship a step forward in the rapidly changing world.
The author is a professor with the Institute of International Relations at China Foreign Affairs University. firstname.lastname@example.org
Summit expected to cement Sino-US ties
By Li Haidong