Foreign Affairs
Focus on "big picture" of China-U.S. ties
Last Updated: 2013-06-06 17:38 | Xinhua
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Chinese President Xi Jinping and his U.S. counterpart, Barack Obama, are scheduled to meet on Friday and Saturday for the first time since both countries completed their latest leadership change.

During the summit, arranged at the Sunnylands estate, California, the two leaders will focus on the "big picture" of leading bilateral relations forward while taking care of both sides' interests, U.S. analysts say.

Through informal working meetings and face-to-face interactions, observers say, the leaders of the world's top two economies will also cultivate a closer personal relationship.

"I think it is a very timely initiative, and a very much needed one," former U.S. National Security Adviser Zbigniew Brzezinski said of the summit in a recent interview with Xinhua.

"The American-Chinese relationship is the most important bilateral relationship of the world. Global economic stability and global security very much depend on the healthy, friendly, cooperative and mutually accommodating relationship between America and China," he noted.

In the eyes of former U.S. Ambassador to China Stapleton Roy, the fact that the get-together is their first since Xi became president and Obama was re-elected "makes the meeting all the more significant."

Echoing these comments, Bonnie Glaser, a senior adviser for Asia at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, a Washington-based think tank, said the summit is "very significant" as the two leaders will hold lengthy, in-depth discussions on the U.S.-China relationship as well as regional and global issues.

Douglas Paal, vice president for studies at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, a Washington-headquartered foreign policy think tank, said the two leaders will talk about "the big picture" of bilateral ties.

"It's about how can the U.S. and China avoid conflict, how can we find ways to pursue our own interests in ways that are compatible with the other country's interest, or at least not in conflict with the other country's interest," he told Xinhua.

Paal co-authored an article last fall that proposed holding an informal U.S.-Chinese summit in 2013 to discuss the difficulty in bilateral relations, "which is that our strategic competition is getting ahead of our strategic cooperation."

The imminent Xi-Obama summit, he told Xinhua, is an opportunity for the two sides to get off "on a good, constructive footing" -- not just inheriting the record of conflict and cooperation of the past, but rising above it.

Also on the agenda will be discussions on how to avoid the zero-sum game usually seen in history between an existing power and an emerging one and construct a new type of great power relationship between the two giants.

"It is a positive development that top leaders in both countries have recognized the dangers inherent in escalating strategic rivalry between China and the United States and have separately endorsed the concept of developing a new type of great power relationship ... that can contain, and hopefully reduce, this rivalry," Roy said.

Moreover, Xi and Obama are expected to discuss "their respective visions for the Asia-Pacific region and the international system, and the overall strategic relationship between the U.S. and China," said Glaser.

"If the two leaders can agree on these larger issues, then it will create a better basis for cooperation on specific issues," such as cyber-security challenges and the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula, she added.

However, given the complication of U.S.-China relations, the experts cautioned against being overly optimistic about the results of the upcoming summit.

"It is a mistake to believe that every summit meeting between major powers such as China and the United States must always produce meaningful results that are visible to outside observers," Roy said.

"Nevertheless, such opportunities should not be wasted, especially in areas that could make management of the bilateral relationship more difficult," he added.

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