What’s New about the New World Power Authorities?

The wives of the U.S. and Chinese heads of state attracted global attention as they appeared together in public for the first time. And just next week, Chinese President Xi Jinping will also have a meeting with U.S. President Barack Obama. Chinese and U.S. top-level officials are meeting in an unprecedentedly frequent way; this moment is surely worthy of remembrance in the history of Sino-U.S. diplomacy.


Actually, “wife diplomacy” is just the newest incarnation in a series of phenomena overlying the new atmosphere of Sino-U.S. relations. The beginning of Obama’s second term in early 2013 just happened to coincide with the changing of Chinese state leadership, with a new government down to every position. The two nations’ new leaders and diplomats very quickly established smooth and effective channels of communication. With the efforts of both sides, Sino-U.S. relations got off to a good start, achieving a smooth transition.


Particularly noticeable were the nations’ leaders’ June 2013 meetings at California’s Annenberg Estate, as these opened up a brand new form of communication between Chinese and U.S. heads of state. In the relaxed atmosphere of informality, the leaders had lengthy, thorough exchanges. This was greatly beneficial for both in building personal trust and deepening understanding. During these meetings, the leaders jointly agreed upon the framework for expanding the Sino-U.S. new model for world powers. Ever since, the development of Sino-U.S. relations has been incorporated into the structure of this new relationship model. America accords positive feedback on the new world power relationship to three reasons: First, seeing the newest developments of the power competition between them, the U.S. must respond to all honest requests from an increasingly powerful China; second, hoping to deepen its relationship with China by proactively accepting the new model for world power relationships, the U.S. will maintain more positive interaction with China; third, hope that marking the new model for world power relationships with America’s seal will better reflect America’s intentions and thereby indicate the direction of U.S. policy formation both globally and on regional issues.

Since the new Sino-U.S. model for world power relationships concept has been introduced, China and the U.S. have opened up to deeper, more effective cooperation. Because as China and America — and China especially — know very well, a concept that simply sounds good is worthless. It must also be useful. In order to enrich the meaning of a new world power relationship, a substantial input of content is required.


At the commercial level, new interaction includes the following several points. First, China and the U.S. have conducted negotiations by a negative list and bilateral investments based on access to former national treatment. Presently, negotiations have already entered a significant stage of text negotiation. Second, in areas such as clean energy and energy technology exchange, China and the U.S. have had highly fruitful collaboration and made great headway. Third, the commercial imbalance between China and the U.S. appears to be improving; America’s exports to China are rapidly increasing, while the growth of its trade deficit with China is notably declining. Fourth, China’s direct investments in America are vastly greater than U.S. investments in China, presenting a clear case of reverse investment. Fifth, joint cooperation is helping to facilitate success of the multilateral talks [known as] the Doha round’s “early harvest,” saving the Doha round from the verge of failure and gaining precious time for global free trade.

At the military level, both sides actively devoted themselves to the development of new world power relations and have adapted to fit the new type of military relations. The two nations’ high-level military officers frequently interact. Under both sides’ guidance by the new style of military relationship, two major military operations of mutual notification mechanisms have been established and security standards for maritime naval and air defense have been discussed. By invitation, China will also participate in the 2014 Pacific Rim military exercises.


Under the influence of the Sino-U.S. new model for world power relationships, even America’s rebalancing of the Asia-Pacific strategy is showing some signs of adjustment, from Obama’s overemphasis on security in the Asia-Pacific strategy during his first term to a focus on security, politics and economics simultaneously, striving to seek a greater range of acceptance for this rebalancing strategy across East Asia. In addition, since Kerry accepted his appointment as secretary of state, he has also modified Hillary Clinton’s Asia-Pacific strategy, the major targets for adjustment being upon China’s demand — weakening the intended rebalancing “siege” around China, and emphasizing that China will play a constructive role; China relations will constitute the major pillar of the rebalancing of Asia-Pacific strategy. In this sense, America’s Asia-Pacific strategy has already gradually changed from rebalancing China to working with China in rebalancing other regional threats.

The itinerary for U.S. first lady Michelle [Obama’s] China visit is also against the backdrop of the gradual strengthening of mutual trust in Sino-U.S. strategy. Former first lady visits to China were different than this time, since Michelle clearly avoided bringing up any political issues, instead focusing attention on education and culture. At a certain level this may also reflect that in the eyes of America’s political elite, China and the U.S. already have ample means to dispute and resolve sensitive topics, so there is no need to play the “first lady diplomacy” card to “indirectly save the nation.”

However, even with the new positioning of the new model for world power relations, bilateral relations still have intense differences. Some disagreements also entail distinctive “new model” features — for example, within newly developing Internet security issues. The U.S. government believes that the Chinese government and its military “launched” a cyberattack upon the American government and other important institutions, their goal being the collection of American diplomatic, economic and defense industry intelligence. Moreover, along with the development of Chinese military power, U.S. concerns over Chinese military forces have also intensified. America denounces the Chinese navy for gathering intelligence along the Hawaii coast and dispatching ships into Guam’s territorial waters without first notifying the U.S. Navy of these activities. Furthermore, in light of China’s lunar exploration project, America also has elevated concerns over China’s space capabilities; they believe that these activities will harm America’s leadership capabilities in space.

All in all, since Obama’s second term began, bilateral relations have headed in new directions, and experienced new developments and breakthroughs. Naturally, there have also been new problems, new contradictions and new conflicts. In the near future, in-depth cooperation can be organized around the following aspects for enriching the content of the Sino-U.S. new model for world power relations. First, to take advantage of adjustments and upgrades to the two nations’ economic structures and form a closer relationship of economic interdependency. Second, to promote solutions for issues in Ukraine and Syria as well as Iraq and other hotspots, and responding to global-level challenges. Third, to jointly advance unity and cooperation in the Asia-Pacific region, increase mutual trust and achieve positive interaction. Fourth, to properly manage sensitive topics involving China’s fundamental political systems and territorial sovereignty, effectively controlling risks and differences of opinion, and ensuring the peaceful, stable development of Sino-U.S. relations.

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