Author: Yang Sheng
Posted on: Global Times, March 30th, 2017
Chinese President Xi Jinping and US President Donald Trump are scheduled to meet next week, said a US official, with analysts believing that the meeting is a sign that Sino-US ties have endured and overcome difficulties caused by the US government transition.
Although the Chinese foreign ministry spokesperson did not disclose any details about the summit at Wednesday’s daily press conference, AP reported that Xi will meet with Trump in the first full week of April, a senior State Department official said Tuesday.
The official “confirmed the timing of Xi’s trip while discussing Secretary of State Rex Tillerson’s upcoming travel plans,” AP reported.
Since Trump’s election victory, to his inauguration and to the upcoming summit, there has been friction in the Sino-US relationship, including a direct telephone conversation with Taiwan leader Tsai Ing-wen, questioning the one-China policy, criticizing China on trade, and blaming China for the Korean Peninsula issue.
These bumps in the road have been mitigated due to comprehensive efforts by both sides through official, semi-official and non-official channels, and the Sino-US relationship has avoided conflict and crisis, said An Gang, a member of the academic committee at Pangoal Institution, a Beijing-based think tank.
“For instance, due to concerns that Trump might launch a trade war, entrepreneurs like Alibaba Chairman Jack Ma reached out [to the administration] via non-official channels,” An said. Ma met with Trump in New York on January 9.
The chairman of Anbang Insurance Group Wu Xiaohui has also built a connection with Trump’s son-in-law and senior adviser Jared Kushner through business ties since November last year, The New York Times reported in January.
Apart from entrepreneurs, think tanks from both countries have also done their part, An added. The Pangoal Institution invited Michael Pillsbury, one of Trump’s advisors on China policies and the director of the Center for Chinese Strategy at the Hudson Institute, to Beijing in January, and he brought significant views from Trump’s team. “At that time, the atmosphere between the two countries was intense, so Pillsbury wouldn’t have accepted the invitation from an official think tank [if the team didn’t approve].”
US think tank the Center on US-China Relations under the Asia Society also released a report on February 2 recommending that “Trump should communicate immediately and directly with President Xi Jinping, and establish a special high-level channel dedicated to jointly resolving this problem [North Korean nuclear issue].” US experts and scholars also criticized Trump heavily when he touched on the one-China policy.
Both US and Chinese scholars share the view that China and the US cannot fall into conflict, so they will work together to heal bilateral ties if there are difficulties, An said.
In the past, when a new US president took office, communication between China and the US relied mainly on official channels, but this time, we found enterprises and think tanks also participated to make the transition as smooth as possible, An said.
“This shows that the Sino-US relationship is becoming more and more diversified. It’s not easy to break off bilateral ties,” he added.
Most importantly, communication between the two leaders guided the direction and created a positive atmosphere for others to fix bilateral ties, said Diao Daming, a research fellow at the Institute of American Studies at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences (CASS).
Diao said that it would be crucial for China to stand firmly on its red line and warn the Trump administration not to cross it.
“Of course both sides can’t agree on every topic, but China is also showing its cooperative position to signal the US that we have more common ground than differences,” he said.
“Think tanks have done their part, but in the US today, even think tanks like the Brookings Institution can’t influence the White House too much, so official channels are still the most important,” Diao stressed.
Common climate interests
On Tuesday, Trump signed an executive order aimed at reversing his predecessor Barack Obama’s climate change policies, a move that sparked praise from the fossil fuel industry and fierce criticism from environmentalists.
The main target of the order is the Clean Power Act, a signature effort by Obama to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from coal-fired power plants in keeping with promises of the 2015 landmark global climate deal, the Paris Agreement.
“Whether or not the US keeps its word, China will keep its promise and bear the responsibility to fight climate change, and we can also try to convince Trump that on climate change we share common interests with the US,” Ni Feng, deputy director of the Institute of American Studies at CASS, told the Global Times.
“We should not turn cooperation into conflict.”