On April 6, 2017 (U.S. time), Chinese president Xi Jinping made his first state visit with the newly elected US president Donald Trump in Florida. This initial state visit between the two heads of states has mainly two aspects that attract people’s attention. Firstly, never in history has the Chinese president made a state visit to the US just a few months after the new president’s inauguration. Second, in the past, the first state visit between two countries’ president is usually multilateral, but this initial state visit is bilateral. These two points show that China and America want to emphasize the importance of this state visit.
To China, the most important political event in 2017 is the Nineteenth National Congress of the Communist Party of China to be held in the second half of the year. However, the stability of domestic affairs, to a large extent, relies on the stability of foreign affairs, among which the Chinese-US relationship is one of the most important. But Donald Trump’s statements regarding China during his election campaign is enough to arouse China’s concern. Moreover, the THAAD issue and Trump’s call with Taiwan’s leader Cai Yingwen all account for China’s urge to settle the misunderstandings and also underlying contradictions between the two countries with diplomatic methods. At the same time, Donald Trump has taken the office for a couple of months, but his major efforts regarding medical reform and immigration issues not only pushed him to the center of controversy but at the same time suffered multiple failures. Under such conditions, Trump wants to guide the public attention to diplomatic issues; hence the China-U.S. relationship is the best starting point. The mutual incentive is the foundation for this successful state visit.
From my perspective, the reason behind this state visit is not that “innocent”, because it is built on both countries’ pursuit for their own benefits. Nevertheless, China and the US’s intent to cooperate will influence China, the US, and even the world in a positive way, yet we should not have high expectations of this intent to have a large effect.
The Chinese-U.S. relationship is considered to be “the most important bilateral relationship in the 21st century.” In the 2011 U.S. – China Joint Statement, both sides established a mutual respecting and mutual benefiting cooperative partner relationship. However, due to historical and cultural issues, differences in interest and many other complicated issues, contradiction and conflict have always been present between China and the U.S. Compared to the cooperative relationship showcased to the public, the conflicts are relatively hidden and complicated, and probably can’t be completely resolved in the near future or even the far future through cooperation. In particular, Asian-Pacific safety, South China Sea, Taiwan, Tibet, and China-Japan relationship issues, which are the at the center of the conflicts, will be very difficult to solve with one or two state visits. It is most likely that China and the U.S. will continue their arguments regarding these problems.
Today, U.S. drones frequently appear in the South China Sea. The United States still wants to implement U.S. return to the Asia Pacific Strategy and encourage the deployment of THAAD. On the other side, China is emphasizing the development of an aircraft carrier. The two countries’ actions reflect their “battle” against one another. Furthermore, the fact that the discussion of these critical issues is always postponed shows the two countries’ reluctance to be the first one to make a concession, which is the biggest barrier to bringing the China-U.S. relationship to the next step.
However, from an optimistic perspective, both sides acknowledge the progress made in this state visit. Both sides agree to mutually make efforts towards expanding the field of cooperation and to tackle the conflicts on the basis of mutual respect. From the reported issues that were discussed; we can find a relatively comprehensive list of cooperation plans that involves economics, trade, military affairs, cooperation in law enforcement, Internet security and cultural communication. Also, positive discussions concerning sensitive issues such as Internet safety and Asian-Pacific safety implies their attempt to approach these so-called “conundrums”.
Of course, the communication between China and the U.S. is not limited to the communication between the two countries’ leaders. As the Xinhua News Agency reported, before this State visit, meetings were held between the high officials of the two countries which includes Chinese Vice Premier Wang Yang, Chinese state councilor Yang Jie, United States Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, United States Secretary of Defense James Mattis, United States Secretary of commerce Wilbur L. Ross and so on. At the same time, before the official state visit, Chinese President Xi Jinping and President Trump had multiple phone calls, exchanging ideas. Despite the obstacles, the China-U.S. relationship is still on the right track, displaying diversity and comprehensiveness.
Interestingly, just five days after the state visit, Chinese president Xi Jinping and US President Donald Trump made another phone call. Such a short time gap attracted much attention. According to the spokesman of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the People’s Republic of China, the two leaders further discussed the issues of concern, including implementing the consensus they reached in the Sea Lake Manor meeting on the North Korean situation and the Syria situation. Such frequent communication between China and the U.S. highlights the trend of cooperation.
Xi Jinping’s visit to the US ensures the main trend of cooperation between China and the US is still prevailing, but it cannot eliminate all the conflicts and contradictions caused by different interests. Overall, from this successful state visit, we can find multiple mutual benefits between the two countries, which will be a solid foundation for a bright future of cooperation. One visit might seem small and limited, but numerous efforts adding together will prevent the China-U.S. relationship from deviating off of the right track. We hope that the two great countries will continue to take their responsibility in a peaceful global society.
This article was written by Wu Yuxin, Liang Zhongling. Please send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org to get in touch.
Photo Credit: South China Morning Post