News Column

U.S.-China Summit a Meeting of Equals

June 6, 2013
Chinese honor guard on parade (photo: U.S. Air Force)
Chinese honor guard on parade (photo: U.S. Air Force)

More than a year ago, then-Chinese vice president Xi Jinping visited Washington to defend China's record on human rights, unfair trade practices and aggressive moves against U.S. allies in Asia.

Now President Xi Jinping returns to the United States as head of China's Communist Party, its army and its state, and there will likely be no apologies for China's actions when Xi meets with President Obama on Friday.

The two nations share "a sweet and sour relationship," said Sun Zhe, director of the Center for Sino-U.S. Relations at Qinghua University in Beijing.

"The sweet, promising part is that both countries really emphasize working together, and that it's a very important relationship" that has survived decades of confrontations, Sun said.

On the sour side, both "have some sort of political correctness, feel their way of doing business is correct and use their moral standards to judge the other."

Xi Jinping heads a nation fast swelling into superpower status.

As its industrial base keeps expanding, China increasingly looks to buy U.S. companies rather than invite them to operate here, such as its recent $4.7 billion purchase of Smithfield Foods.

Its military has become more expansionist, sending ships well into the Pacific to claim as its own hundreds of thousands of square miles of resource rich waters that U.S. friends such as Japan, Taiwan and the Philippines say belong to them.

Yet at home, it feels the need to repress segments of society to the point where its censors find it necessary to block out the words "today" and "tomorrow" to stop Internet users from discussing the anniversary of the June 4, 1989, massacre in Tiananmen Square.

China's Communist authorities remain scared of their own people and recent history even as they boast of a newly earned global confidence and influence.

That attitude is well-represented by Xi, 59, who will stop by California on Friday for a two-day "shirt-sleeves" summit with Obama following recent visits to world capitals in Africa, Europe and Latin America.

As the leaders of the world's top two economies, Xi and Obama have many issues that divide the nations. But the scheduled six hours of meetings at the Sunnylands desert retreat in Rancho Mirage will probably end up being more about building closer personal ties during meals and walks.

Though the United States has many items on its agenda, China has signaled it has no interest in satisfying them.

High on the agenda for the U.S. side will be cybersecurity after several reports of state-sponsored Chinese cyberattacks against U.S. government, commercial and civil organizations.

Beijing denies responsibility and also claims it is the victim of such attacks.

China's top Internet security official Huang Chengqing said he has "mountains of data" about U.S. cyberattacks on China, the China Daily newspaper reported Wednesday.

Many analysts expect Xi to talk in broad terms about two of his major political concepts -- the "China dream" and the need for a "new type of great power relationship" between the United States and China.

"I hope (Obama) avoids signing on to 'a new type of great power relationship,'" wrote Andrew Nathan, a China expert at Columbia University, on the Asia Society's ChinaFile website.

"This is Chinese code for the U.S. pre-emptively yielding to what China views as its legitimate security interests."

Chinese academics says the United States must view the world and China differently to avoid conflicts.

This summit and future ones, "must address this difficult relationship -- how China can rise peacefully without being very coercive, and only a little aggressive, and how America can accept China as No. 1," said Shen Dingli, an international relations expert at Shanghai's Fudan University.

"By visiting America without asking for protocol, Xi shows China wants to stabilize the relationship," he said. "But as long as China grows faster than the U.S., the relationship will get worse."

When China surpasses U.S. GDP at some point under Obama's successor, it will be the first time the USA has been eclipsed by another nation in 70 years, Shen said.

"China's rise is peaceful, so the USA can't launch a war to stop China's rise. America must accept it," Shen said.

The two presidents' meeting "will be important but not historical, and can quickly be forgotten in three months," he said.

Contributing: Stephanie Zhou

For more stories covering politics, please see HispanicBusiness' Politics Channel

Source: Copyright USA TODAY 2013

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