OPINION | Xi Jinping’s Visit to U.S. by Abhishek Pratap Singh
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OPINION | Xi Jinping’s Visit to U.S. by Abhishek Pratap Singh

By Abhishek Pratap Singh

OPINION | Xi Jinping’s Visit to U.S. by Abhishek Pratap Singh

Chinese President Xi Jinping’s first state visit to the United States (U.S.) in September 2015 has gone well in the memory lane of the Sino-U.S. bilateral relations. The visit was marked by three important events on the agenda- Seattle interaction with US business leaders, a black-tie state dinner with President Barack Obama and an address at the United Nations General Assembly.

The bilateral relations between China and U.S. have been faced by a downward swing on issues of cybersecurity and trade issues- resulting into a trust deficit. To this flux of rising tensions, David Lampton calls it a “tipping point” in Chin-U.S. relations. Xi’s visit came in the background of uncertainties, calling for greater efforts to address critical concerns.

The rising U.S. concerns against China on cyber espionage formed the key bone of contention. Adhering to mutual interest, both sides agreed “that neither country’s government will conduct or knowingly support cyber-enabled theft of intellectual property, including trade secrets or other confidential business information, with the intent of providing competitive advantages to companies or commercial sectors”. It was further agreed to set up a “high-level joint dialogue mechanism on fighting cyber crime” and also to expand their cooperation on it which Obama called a “significant progress”.

In this view, the threat of U.S. sanctions against Chinese cyber espionage led to some positive developments between both as President Obama acknowledged that “words are followed by actions.” Besides, the U.S. commercial interest is also subjected to fear of Chinese security laws.  

The other positive development was marked on the issue of climate change and fight against global warming. Noting the importance of ‘building consensus on global warming’ at the proposed UN climate change summit to be held in Paris this December both the leaders “reaffirmed their commitment to reach an ambitious agreement in 2015”. In a key forward step towards climate change mitigation efforts, China also announced that it will start a “national emission trading system” in 2017.

In contrast, some key security issues like South China Sea and Military-to-Military Relations between both the two countries fell short of mentioning. While some progress was made on cooperation between coast guards and rules of behavior for air conduct between both the states mainly attributed for diplomatic consumption.

In this state of affairs, Xi called for a better understanding of each other’s "strategic intentions”, and emphasized on building "a new model of major country relationship" with more understanding and less suspicion. In his address to business executives in Seattle, Xi reassured U.S. business and government officials on issues of discrimination in China, devaluation of currency to boast domestic exports and related cyber threats. However, he also emphasized on the need to reject the Cold War mindset and a "winner take all" mentality.

The outcomes of this significant visit suggests that in an effort to walk both the ways between acting tough and reassuring Americans, Xi Jinping has tried to reflect a leftward position. Here, the success depends more on balancing between keeping promises and realist concerns. For China, the efforts to build trust and clear doubts is one of the pertinent concerns against rising political realities. Although no key breakthroughs have been reached between China and U.S. thereby, furthering strengthening the assumption that the Sino-U.S. relationship will remain neither too good, nor too bad in times ahead. In given circumstances the faith of bilateral relations depends on the convergence of national interests and political statesmanship.

About The Author:

Abhishek Pratap Singh is a Doctoral Candidate and Senior Research Fellow at Centre for East Asian Studies (Chinese), School of International Studies, Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi. Thomson Reuters Researcher Id No. M-3111-2015.