Xi tells of ‘critical’ point in Sino-US relations ahead of Obama summit

US National Security Adviser Tom Donilon (left) shakes hands with President Xi Jinping before their meeting at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing on Monday. Photo: AP

President Xi Jinping told a senior adviser to US President Barack Obama yesterday that the two countries should forge "a new type of relationship between powers" at next week's summit.

National Security Adviser Tom Donilon was in Beijing to prepare for the June 7-8 talks in California, which will be the two leaders' first encounter since Xi took office in March.

Donilon also met State Councillor Yang Jiechi , Beijing's top foreign policy official, to discuss the agenda for a summit that is expected to confront security issues while trying to overcome growing distrust between the two governments.

Donilon and Yang said the talks were a chance for the leaders to work through problems.

Although they did not identify those challenges, ties are strained across the board, from long-standing differences over nuclear programmes in Iran and North Korea to disputes over cyberattacks and China's more assertive pursuit of territorial claims against US allies Japan and the Philippines. "The current China-US relationship is at a critical juncture to build on past successes and open up new dimensions for the future," Xi told Donilon.

He said he looked forward to meeting Obama and having "extensive and deep discussions about major strategic issues".

Donilon told Xi that an "unprecedented level" of dialogue and interactions had been "essential to effectively advancing our relationship".

Analysts said that the top of Donilon's agenda in his talks with Chinese officials would be setting the tone for the summit.

"I believe that a negotiated consensus over the language to be used in public remarks by both leaders or possible statements to be released after the summit are of utmost importance for such pre-summit talks, besides other agreements on the agenda," said Zhou Qi , of the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences' Institute of American Studies.

Zhou said the summit would focus on "building trust" between the two leaders, citing an article in the US magazine Foreign Policy by senior Chinese diplomat He Yafei .

In the article, titled "The Trust Deficit", former deputy foreign minister He, who is now deputy director of the State Council's Overseas Chinese Affairs Office, called for the "building of trust" between the world's two most powerful nations.

In his article, He said Sino-US trust was at its lowest point since US president Richard Nixon's historic 1972 visit to China, citing some scholars' views.

"Clearly, a huge deficit of strategic trust lies at the bottom of all problems between China and the United States," He said.

US affairs expert Jin Canrong , associate dean of Renmin University's school of international relations, said building what Xi had called "a new type of great-power relationship" was at the top of the Chinese side's agenda.

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