Friday, September 18, 2015

Spotlight: Xi's epic bid for better U.S. ties bolsters Asian peace, prosperity

News | 18.09.2015 | 12:07
It is already a worldwide consensus that China and the United States, the two giants sitting on the opposite end of the Pacific Ocean, play a pivotal role in shaping the future of the vast region between them, whose eminence in global affairs is growing each and every day.
It is against such an epic backdrop that there is a growing sense among Chinese, U.S. and Asian officials and experts that Chinese President Xi Jinping's upcoming first state visit to the United States could further promote the positive China-U.S. interaction in the Asia-Pacific and thus make the Pacific Ocean more live up to its name.
President Xi, a staunch advocator for common peace and prosperity in the Asia-Pacific, has made it clear time and again that "the broad Pacific Ocean is vast enough to embrace both China and the United States."
He has also repeatedly urged the two sides to honor their commitment to actively interact in the Asia-Pacific region, encourage inclusive diplomacy, and jointly play a constructive role to bolster regional peace, stability and prosperity.
With their shared important responsibilities for the region, China and the United States have been carrying out multi-level and multi-field communication and coordination in the Asia-Pacific. Bolstered by Xi's upcoming visit, such coordination and cooperation will not only be a blessing to the two countries, but also a boon to the Asia-Pacific and the world as a whole.
In recent years, China and the United States have been making joint efforts toward building a new model of major-country ties, featuring no-conflict and no-confrontation, mutual respect, and win-win cooperation.
Many officials and experts in both nations believe that the Asia-Pacific region should become a "testing ground" for the task.
"What we (China and the United States) are doing to build this new model of relationship will certainly give us very good guidance for our interaction in the Asia-Pacific; what we are doing in the Asia-Pacific together will give more substance to this new model of relationship," Cui Tiankai, China's ambassador to the United States, said in a policy speech in Houston in May.
"I believe our ongoing efforts for constructive interaction in the Asia-Pacific region will be an important pillar of this new model of relationship. And the region will be a testing ground for this new model," he added.
"In the Asia-Pacific region, China and the United States need to negotiate and cooperate, instead of acting on the free will of their own and 'splitting' the ocean. The Asia-Pacific region should be the testing ground for China-U.S. win-win cooperation," said Ruan Zongze, vice president of the China Institute of International Studies (CIIS).
Jia Xiudong, a senior research fellow at the CIIS, also pointed out that as a region where China-U.S. interests are most intervowen and their interactions are most intensive, the Asia-Pacific should become a core testing ground of the two nations to explore a new model of major-country ties.
"It must succeed, or the cost of failure will be too huge for any country to bear," he added.
"Whether China and the United States can eventually build a new model of major-country relations mainly depends on their interaction in the Asia-Pacific," Wu Xinbo, director of the Center for American Studies, Fudan University, told Xinhua.
In fact, the process of building a new model of major-country relations between China and the United States, there are not only many successful precedents of positive interaction in the Asia-Pacific, but also a large number of contemporary examples.
Jeffrey Bader, an expert at the Brookings Institution and former China policy adviser to U.S. President Barack Obama in the National Security Council, wrote recently that East Asia has avoided major military conflicts since the 1970s, which is owing to the maturity and good sense of most of the states of the region.
Besides, it is due to the reconciliation of the Asia-Pacific major powers, the United States and China, initiated by Richard Nixon and Henry Kissinger and nurtured by every American administration and Chinese leadership since, he wrote.
On the political and strategic level, the two countries have established Asia-Pacific consultation mechanism. In military ties, which are considered to be the most vulnerable part in bilateral relationship, the two sides also have conducted several joint military drills including the first China-U.S. disaster relief exercise in Hawaii in November 2013.
The two countries have also maintained fruitful communication and coordination on hotspot topics in Asia, such as the Korean Peninsula nuclear issue and Afghanistan.
More positive interaction between China and the United States and joint efforts to promote regional prosperity and stability represent the common aspirations of all the countries in the region.
Former Australian Prime Minister Bob Hawke has said that the key issue in safeguarding security in the Asia-Pacific region is the orientation of the China-U.S. relationship.
All Asian countries are eager to see closer relations between China and the United States, said Singaporean Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, adding it is a good signal that the two countries have expressed the broad Pacific Ocean vast enough to embrace both nations.
Chheang Vannarith, co-founder and chairman of the Cambodian Institute for Strategic Studies, said that the China-U.S. relationship is very important for the whole world, especially for the Asia-Pacific region.
Improved relations will help in political stability, security and development around the world, he said, adding that good communication between the two countries' leaders is particularly important.
"In the Asia-Pacific, China and the United States are both extremely important for the regional countries. Southeast Asian countries don't want to pick a side between the two powers, since the trade relations with China and security cooperation with the United States are both vital for them," Peter Cai, a China expert of News Corp. Australia, told Xinhua.
Senior Associate of Asia Program at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace Vikram Nehru told Xinhua that because of the rise of China, many Asia-Pacific countries are being drawn into the Chinese economic orbit and China has become the largest trading partner of all the countries in the region.
"I think it is fair to say that all these countries have improved and increased their bilateral relationship with China just as they have improved their relationship with the United States," Nehru said.
He said that more than 50 countries, including many Asia-Pacific nations, have become founding members of the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB), which showed they have taken more mature stance.
"I think the United States would have been well advised to follow that particular strategy. That will be good for the AIIB, for Asia and for the United States," Nehru said.
David Dollar, another China expert at the Brookings Institution, said many Asia-Pacific economies, such as Australia, Singapore, South Korea, and Vietnam want to be part of both Chinese initiatives (the AIIB and the "One Belt, One Road" ) and the American effort to reduce trade barriers. "These different efforts are in fact complementary."
China has called for an open attitude known as "the Pacific is wide enough for both countries," and put forward new concepts of no-conflict and no-confrontation, mutual respect, and win-win cooperation so as to reduce negative interaction between the two countries and create positive ones, according to Wu from Fudan University.
Therefore, just as Ambassador Cui said, there is a need for greater conceptual clarity on a number of key issues that could affect the very basis of China-U.S. interaction in the Asia-Pacific.
"Asia pivot" and its updated version "Asia rebalancing" are the most important U.S. strategic adjustments since the end of the Cold War.
Compared with the "Asia rebalancing" that based on a U.S.-dominated military alliance, China's Asia security concept is open and inclusive.
Since the 1990s, China has enriched its Asia-Pacific diplomacy by putting forward a series of security policies including a new security concept.
By rolling out new concepts and initiatives such as "the community of common destiny," new Asia security concept, and a neighborhood policy featuring "amity, sincerity, mutual benefit and inclusiveness," Xi proposed to connect the Chinese Dream with aspirations of other neighboring peoples to live a good life and the future of the region, emphasizing the Asia-Pacific region is wide enough for common development.
Roger Cliff, senior fellow at the Asia Security Initiative of the Atlantic Council, said that its China policy has been a key element of the Obama administration's global strategy in general and "Asia rebalancing" policy in particular.
He suggested "the United States can declare that it has no intention of containing China and China can declare that its rise will be peaceful" so as to dispel misunderstanding on both sides.
In August, when meeting with his U.S. counterpart John Kerry, Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi said that China would like to see Washington play a positive role in the region.
Meanwhile, Kerry said that the United States supports a strong and prosperous China and has never sought to confront China in the region.
These remarks are positive, but a lot more need to be done by the two countries in order to carry out positive interaction in the Asia-Pacific. Just as Cliff said grand declarations can be a starting point, and they need to be followed up by specific, concrete agreements and actions.
He stressed that for example, the United States has said that the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) is not intended to exclude China and that China will be welcome to join when it is ready. If at some point in the future China applies for membership in the TPP and is admitted, that will build a little trust and disprove the theory that the TPP is part of a containment strategy toward China.
Xinhua reporters Yang Qingchuan and Tang Zhimin in Beijing, Zhi Linfei, Lu Jafei and Guan Jianwu in Washington, Xu Yanyan in Melbourne contributed to the story.