China seeks ‘new model’ for relations with US

Do you have expectations of this week’s summit between President Obama and President Xi? If so, I suggest you lower them.

President Xi and President Obama, pictured in 2013

The sombre fact is that despite the enormous range and complexity of the US-China relationship, it is becoming ever harder to manage. The smiles and ceremony of a 21-gun salute and state dinner will conceal gritted teeth and crossed fingers.

A game of brinkmanship is afoot and on cyber-hacking and contested atolls, it would need a reclamation project bigger and swifter than the one under way in the South China Sea for guest and host to find a piece of common ground to stand on…

But spin it another way and there should be something to celebrate.

Four and a half decades, five Chinese communist leaders, eight American presidents, and a transition from a world in which China is isolated and marginal to one in which it is increasingly able to meet the United States on equal terms.

And through it all, the US-China relationship has broadly held to the course that President Nixon set out in 1972 as he prepared to travel to Beijing to end two decades of enmity:

“The government of the People’s Republic of China and the government of the United States have had great differences. We will have differences in the future. But what we must do is to find a way to see that we can have differences without being enemies in war.”