All eyes on Xi-Obama meeting in Washington

Amid a host of festering issues between Beijing and Washington, the US is bracing to host China’s President Xi Jinping, who is scheduled to meet President Barack Obama at the White House before heading to address the United Nations General Assembly in September. This will be President Xi’s first official state visit to the US since coming into office.

The relationship between China and the US has always been checkered, at best. The visit comes at a time when China is facing an economic crisis and its currency stands devalued. Speaking about Xi Jinping’s upcoming visit to the USA, China’s state run newspaper Global Times said, “The current China-US ties are clouded by hawkish voices among US strategists. The US politicians competing in election rallies are also targeting China in various areas in order to attract attention.”

While China and the US have some mutual interests such as reining in North Korea’s nuclear programme, and found convergence of interests in the agreement on climate change the two sides signed in 2014, there have also been significant points of disagreement on some major issues. These include China’s alleged role in the cyberattacks on the US leading to pilfering the personal information of several Federal agents, and China’s naval installations in the disputed South China Sea.

Ahead of Xi Jinping’s visit to Washington, US National Security Advisor Susan Rice visited Beijing, and met Chinese officials and President Xi. Xi told Rice that China wanted “sustainable and steady growth” in ties with Washington.
“We have seen our bilateral relationship evolve and strengthen in recent months. And we have found areas of broadened and deepened cooperation that we are certainly looking forward to building upon,” Rice told China’s top diplomat, State Councillor Yang Jiechi. Mr Jeichi reciprocated by saying that both countries had cooperated closely over the Iran and North Korean nuclear issues. “With shared efforts on both sides, China-US relations have maintained a trend of overall positive development recently,” he added. 

Fang Changlong, Vice Chairman of China’s Central Military Commission, underlined the importance of Rice’s visit and said her fourth visit in one year showed how important the ties are for both countries. “Both sides should work hard to control and manage disputes and risks,” the official Xinhua news agency quoted Fan as saying.

While there was no mention of South China Sea by Ms. Rice during her talks with President Xi, it is expected to be one of the main priorities on the part of US, in order to ensure peace and stability in the region. Ms Rice highlighted the areas of cooperation between the militaries of two countries and added that climate change, promotion of student and tourist travel and cooperation on combating ebola will be some of the key areas of collaborative effort.

For both countries, the forthcoming state visit by the Chinese president could well mark one of the important turning points in Sino-American ties. China is increasingly looking like a  daunting formidable yet beleaguered major economy, with Xi Jinping’s unquestioned political clout taking a slight beating back at home. However, US strategists warn against perceiving China as the humbled adversary. With the cold cyberwar lurking in the horizon of late, the leaders of the two countries will need to perform a diplomatic tightrope walk.

 

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