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Focus
A Meeting Apart
Chinese and Russian experts on the Xi-Trump meeting
 NO. 16 APRIL 20, 2017
How will the first face-to-face meetings between Chinese President Xi Jinping and his U.S. counterpart Donald Trump affect China-U.S. relations as well as trilateral relations between China, Russia and the United States? At an event organized by Russian news agency Sputnik in Beijing on April 10, Chinese and Russian experts on international relations shared their views. Edited excerpts of which are as follow:

Jia Lieying, Director, School of International Relations, Beijing Language and Culture University:

The visit was successful as proven by the positive comments of many scholars from home and abroad. Their face-to-face meetings contribute to the improvement of bilateral relations as it helps to enhance mutual understanding and reduce uncertainty. China and the United States have already developed sound economic and people-to-people relations, as the two nations are each other's largest trading partner, from which the two have benefited a lot. During the latest meeting, the two sides agreed to enhance military exchanges, which is of particular significance for bilateral relations. And the two sides also agreed to establish a high-level diplomatic and security dialogue to promote mutual understanding. Exchanges of such high frequency will surely deepen mutual trust.

Despite President Trump's harsh campaign rhetoric, I believe China-U.S. relations will develop in a positive direction. Trump's call to "make America great again" is in alignment with the Chinese dream put forth by President Xi with both relying on comprehensive social and economic development of the two nations. In the meantime, close coordination between the two countries is vital to maintaining world peace and prosperity.

Not long before, during his first official visit to China, U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said bilateral ties should be based on the principles of no conflict, no confrontation, mutual respect and win-win cooperation. These principles were actually first proposed by President Xi to former U.S. President Barack Obama as the future paradigm of China-U.S. ties at their meeting in California in 2013.

In my view, large nations should assume more responsibility in bringing peace to the Middle East. The Chinese Government is firmly against the use of chemical weapons and also opposed to airstrikes on Syrian government forces before the truth is determined. The poignant consequences of the Syrian crisis are the rampant spread of terrorism as well as the refugee crisis.

The Syrian crisis should be settled through political dialogues which need cooperation among major nation states. China and Russia have efficiently coordinated their efforts to facilitate settlement of the crisis. If the presidents of the United States and Russia can hold constructive talks as soon as possible, it will surely exert a positive influence on regional and world peace.

Mei Xinyu, researcher, Trade & Economic Relations Department, Chinese Academy of International Trade and Economic Cooperation, Ministry of Commerce:

The meetings took place just two and a half months after Trump's taking office on January 20, making it the earliest meetings ever between a newly elected U.S. president and his Chinese counterpart. It is also a good omen for the bilateral relations that Trump will visit China within the year.

The first step of problem solving is to outline the problem. During their meetings, the two sides had very candid talks, and this has helped build mutual trust between the two governments and lay a smooth path for solving the two nations' existing disagreements.

Both before his election and since taking office, Trump has stated a policy of shrinking U.S. involvement overseas and reducing U.S. intervention overseas. Offensive methods such as bombing Syria are only an approach used to achieve strategic retrenchment. The Trump administration's latest move toward Syria is more like a response under heavy domestic political pressure, as Trump has been accused of being "soft" on Russia. Though the United States bombed a Syrian airfield, it is very unlikely to send ground troops onto the Syrian battlefield.

The strategic retrenchment advocated by the Trump administration is due to the comparative decline of U.S. national strength, though the world's only superpower still tries to maintain its overseas clout.

A warming in China-U.S. relations doesn't mean China will tilt toward the United States. Instead, China seeks a more balanced relationship with the United States. China will not ignore its relationship with Russia, with whom it shares a long border.

I am confident of peace and prosperity in the Asia-Pacific region. As President Xi said, "The broad Pacific Ocean is vast enough to embrace both China and the United States."

Sergey Trush, leading scientist, Center for Regional Problems, Institute for U.S. and Canada Studies, Russian Academy of Sciences:

As far as I can see, the Xi-Trump meeting was successful. Though I haven't got detailed information about their talks, the meeting has given the outside world a positive impression. Political interaction is very important for bilateral relations. Only through contact can relations develop toward a positive direction. Despite Trump criticizing China a lot during his election campaign, there has been no major volatility in China-U.S. relations since he assumed power. The location—the Mar-a-Lago resort in Florida, which is far from "serious" Washington, D.C.—set the meeting apart from the traditional political decision-making process and thus avoid government bureaucracies attached with such visits. It shows the distinctive personal character of Trump, which is totally different from that of traditional U.S. bureaucrats.

The relations between Russia, China and the United States are too complicated to be called a triangle. The third side of a triangle definitely changes if the other two sides change, which does not fit in with the current state of the three nations' ties. On regional and international affairs, China and Russia have very similar stances. Therefore, the development of China-U.S. relations will not damage China-Russia relations. I personally take a positive attitude toward the development of China-U.S. relations.

Alexey Fenenko, associate professor, Faculty of World Politics, Moscow State University:

In history, when the economic status of an established power declines, its threats to the international community increase. It might adopt risky moves to maintain its international status. The United States nowadays is showing such behavior. Following the decline of its global standing, uncertainty about U.S. activity in the world arena is on the rise.

The United States worries a lot that China and Russia may form some sort of alliance which might pose a threat to the United States' dominant role.

China and Russia have established a strategic partnership based on which the two nations will coordinate their stances on major international affairs. Washington has been trying to dismantle this partnership. Against this backdrop, the timing of the U.S. attack on Syria is meant to sow discord between Beijing and Moscow by making Moscow suspicious of Beijing's stance on the Syrian crisis. The U.S. has played similar games before.

Years ago, in an attempt to drive a wedge between the two countries, some Western think tanks spread the idea that Russia was planning to join NATO.

Due to the Syrian issue, relations between Russia and the United States are extremely strained. The two nations' cooperation on anti-terrorism has almost halted. The two governments really need to take pragmatic steps to prevent their relationship returning to its condition during the Cold War.

Copyedited by Chris Surtees

Comments to yulintao@bjreview.com

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