Following Xi Jinping’s visit to the United States, over a dozen domestic experts on U.S.-China relations gathered at Renmin University of China and discussed the future direction of Sino-U.S. relations. These scholars had the basic consensus that Xi’s U.S. visit exceeded expectations, enhanced mutual trust, and righted the direction. In both the grand scheme as well as the details, Xi made some new statements. Scholars believe that, in the next year, Sino-U.S. relations overall will be manageable. However, long-term structural contradictions will still exist; [China] needs to maintain a strategic focus and have the patience to manage these relations.
The scholars noticed that Xi made three new points in his statements regarding the new type of relationship between major powers.
First, on three occasions, Xi expressed that building a new type of relationship between the two major powers of China and U.S. is “a priority for the direction of China’s diplomatic policies.”
Since the 18th Congress, China has officially stated that the relations with diplomatic priority include Sino-Russian relations, China-E.U. relations, diplomacy with neighboring countries, as well as the relationship between China and other BRIC countries and the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO). As for the importance of Sino-U.S. relations, the most common expression is that "the Sino-U.S. relationship is one of the most important bilateral relations in the 21st century." The "Sino-U.S. relationship is at the top of the most important relations in China’s diplomacy" was also once a consensus among academics, but has rarely been mentioned in recent years.
This is an important statement of [China’s] foreign policy. Da Wei, Director of the China Institute of Contemporary International Relations, believes that "Chairman Xi reaffirmed the importance of Sino-U.S. relations to the American public."
Second, some scholars noted that in the summary list of Chairman Xi’s visit, the first item on the "Sino-U.S. new relations between big powers" mentioned that China respects the traditional U.S. influence in the Asia-Pacific region and its real interests and welcomes the U.S. to continue to play a positive and constructive role in regional affairs. Among them, the statement that "China respects the traditional American influence and real interests in the Asia Pacific region" appeared for the first time.
Wang Dong, Deputy Executive Director of the Sino-U.S. Cultural Exchanges and Research Base at Peking University, pointed out that China often said that "[we] welcome the United States to continue to play an active and constructive role in regional affairs." However, "to respect traditional American influence and real interests in the Asia Pacific region" has, previously, never been clearly stated. He said, "This statement is to confirm China’s strategic intentions. We are reinventing the wheel."
Third, about the future of Sino-U.S. common interests and responsibilities, President Xi Jinping used the term "unprecedented" on the evening of September 25 at the welcoming banquet that President Obama held in the White House.
Most noteworthy is that, on the 25th, after the talks with President Obama, when the two heads of state jointly met with reporters, President Xi stated that the two sides have a lot of common interests in the South China Sea.
Wang Dong believes that using the term "unprecedented" to describe the future of Sino-U.S. common interests and common responsibilities and also stating that China and the U.S. "have a lot of common interests in the South China Sea," appeared for the first time in Sino-U.S. relations. It manifested President Xi’s full understanding and control of the overall direction of future Sino-U.S. relations. To some extent, it will help alleviate the situation of Sino-U.S. tension and confrontation in the South China Sea issue.
Source: People’s Daily, October 15, 2015