Path:Sino-US›› China Press Outlook››
China-US relationship adopting a 'new model'

US President Barack Obama, right, and Chinese President Xi Jinping, left, smile as they join other world leaders at a tree planting ceremony at Friendship Lawn, Yanqi Lake for the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) Summit, Tuesday, Nov. 11, 2014 in Beijing. Photo: AP

The summit between Chinese President Xi Jinping and his US counterpart Barack Obama, which was held at the Zhongnanhai leadership compound in central Beijing on Tuesday, was highly-anticipated, as the world's most important bilateral relationship has always followed a pattern of moving from low water to high tide.

However, under Obama's presidency, the China-US relationship seems to have averted such a labile state. US Secretary of State John Kerry's statement on October 4, in which he said that the US-China relationship would determine the global structure in the 21st century, has already corroborated the argument.

Putting aside the hot discussion over the location of the Xi-Obama meeting, it is noteworthy that both Kerry and Chinese Ambassador to the US Cui Tiankai simultaneously touched upon the importance of containing divergences ahead of the meeting. Kerry described the constructive management of differences as a pillar of US policies toward China, while Cui said that the discrepancy was not allowed to disrupt the bilateral relations that must be kept well-balanced.

At an Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) meeting, Obama announced that the US government planned to extend visa validity to Chinese nationals, sending a message of goodwill to China, especially at a time when the two countries just made reconciliation on issues of economy and geopolitics.

However, differences persist. The bilateral relationship in Obama's presidency is divided by the Chinese leadership into two periods: the period under Hu Jintao's leadership and the period under Xi's leadership. Major differences between China and the US came under spotlight after Xi took power in late 2012, when the two countries were divided on China's territorial disputes in the South China Sea and the face-off between China and Japan over the Diaoyu Islands in the East China Sea.

In the larger sense, it is expected that China's growing clout will add to tensions in geopolitics, which concern the US and have drawn its close attention. This has led the US to formulate the rebalancing policy in the Asia Pacific region, which is widely seen as a policy to contain China's rise.

Compared with the previous US administrations, the Obama administration has overturned the stereotype that when a new US president takes office, the China-US relationship will be embroiled in a period of low ebb at the beginning of his presidency. China and the US started high-level exchange visits as soon as Obama assumed office in early 2009, a sharp contrast to the presidency of Ronald Reagan, Bill Clinton and George W. Bush, who adopted a tough line with China at the beginning of their tenures.

Therefore, when differences between China and the US surfaced on the occasion of China's power transition in 2012, the two countries changed the mutual respect into a will to keep conflicts under control, which led to the second Xi-Obama meeting.

The second highest-level summit was held after Obama was frustrated by the Democratic Party's failure in the mid-term elections. At the same time, his government is also scorched by the threats from the Islamic State, the Ukraine crisis and the Ebola outbreak. China now has an urgent need for further cooperation with the US and other partners to overcome the bottleneck of economic growth. These domestic pressures have contributed to the view of balancing relations shared by China and the US, which has helped the two countries downplay the contradictions.

As former US Secretary of State Henry Kissinger suggests, the US-China relationship is adopting a new model, which includes constructive control of differences and balancing. Under the new model, China-US relationship, which will determine the global structure in the 21st century, presents an optimistic outlook, which has been proved at the Xi-Obama summit in Beijing.

(The article is translated and edited by Ding Yi)

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