The Essence of Big-Power Relations: the Chinese Definition in short

The BBC‘s monitoring service has a Chinese press review on the summit between U.S. president Barack Obama and Chinese party and state chairman Xi Jinping.

The Xinhua review linked by the BBC review actually goes somewhat further than the BBC’s account of it: the summit had designed (or drafted) a roadmap for a new era of Sino-American relations (为新时期中美关系的发展规划了蓝图). That said, two sentences further down, the Xinhua review kind of counterbalances this with a much more vague notion that a consensus between the two leaders on making joint efforts to build a new type of relations between big powers, to show mutual respect, and to cooperate in a mutually beneficial way, thus benefitting the people of their two countries and the people of the world. China and America, facing rapid economic globalization and the objective requirements of countries being in the same boat, should be able to take a road different from the history of great powers – a new road without clashes and antagonism. The Xinhua review the notion that China is the biggest developing country, and America is the biggest developed country. Facts had shown that cooperaton was mutually beneficial. Even if the political systems and development patterns were different, countries could set a good example of  peaceful coexistence and harmonious relations. All the same,

it cannot be denied that differences in terms of societal system, development stage, history, culture and tradition do exist between China and America, which make the relationship between the two countries exceptionally complex. This is exactly why chairman Xi Jinping says that the establishment of a a new type of relations between big powers is unprecedented and for generations to come [this should be the correct translation if 后起来者 is meant – I’m not sure about the actually used term 后启来者].


The talk about unprecedented (tasks) preceded the summit – Chinese ambassador Cui Tiankai was quoted with quite the same wording ahead of the summit.

The People’s Daily editorials or commentaries linked by the BBC can’t be loaded at the moment. However, there seem to bee different opinions among People’s Daily’s editorialists – one suggesting that this was the beginning of a new era, and one (in the overseas edition) suggesting that building a normal relationship among major powers wouldn’t be easy, and one without distrust would be impossible (unless the U.S. changed their ways, that is).

Chinese coverage – before and after the summit – seems to suggest that the summit was a stage in a Chinese initiative to win America over to a constructive role in building a more harmonious world. Obviously, this would mean that a “failed” summit would be a loss of face for Xi Jinping – although there would have been ways to sell this to the Chinese public reasonably successfully, as a failure of the usual American suspects.

What seems to support the perception of the summit as the result of Chinese efforts is that the Chinese side came with a “vision” – Obama came with issues, such as cyber attacks. Chinese core interests (such as Taiwan or the South China Sea) don’t feature prominently. But there would be no American-Chinese summit without such issues – that they aren’t in the headlines for the sake of “atmosphere” does not mean that they were absent in the talks. But at least to the public, they were communicated rather low-key on this occasion.

Hong Kong’s Phoenix/Ifeng television and media company quotes the Beijing News (新京报) as saying that Xi addressed the Senkaku Islands (Diaoyutai) and the South China Sea issues as well as the “Taiwan issue”, cyber security and the Korean nuclear issue. There are excerpts from a press conference (or briefing, 吹风会), too, held by former Chinese foreign minister (until March this year) and current secretary of the Foreign Affairs Leading Small Group of the Communist Party of China Yang Jiechi (Yang apparently made his statements the Hyatt Hotel, where the Chinese side stayed during the summit):

Q: What’s at the core of the new type of big-power relations between China and America?


A: Yang Jiechi said that the two leaders agree to making joint efforts to build big-power relations of a new type between China and America, with mutual respect and mutually beneficial cooperation. This is an important consensus reached by both sides, with their minds set on the international situation and the future development of Sino-American relations. This represents [the fact that] the two countries don’t take the road of history, with clashes and antagonism, but initiate a new model of big-power relatoins, a historic undertaking of  political wisdom.


Yang Jiechi said that as chairman Xi pointed out, China and America are the world’s most influential countries, and should therefore set an example of how to handle big-power relations. President Obama said that America welcomes China as a great power that continues peaceful development, and that a peaceful, stable and prosperous China isn’t only beneficial for China, but also for America, and for the world. America hopes to maintain strong cooperational relations with China, in an equal partnership.


Yang Jiechi said that three lines by chairman Xi during the summit provided an incisive summary:


1. No clashes, no confrontation. Treat each other’s strategic intentions objectively and reasonably, maintain partnership, not rivalry, handle contradictions and differences by dialog and cooperation, and not by clashes and confrontation.


2. Mutual respect. That’s to respect each other’s chosen societal system and development path, each other’s core interests and major concerns, to seek common ground while reserving differences, show tolerance and learn from each other, and make progress together.


3. Mutually beneficial cooperation. That’s to abandon zero-sum concepts, take the other’s benefit into account while seeking your own benefit, advance common development while pursuing your own development, and keep deepening the beneficial integrational pattern.


Yang Jiechi said that concerning the implementation of the spirit of the new type of big-power relations, chairman Xi had advanced a four-point proposal:


1. To raise the level of dialog and mutual trust, multilateral forums such as the G-20 meetings and APEC and all the other more than ninety inter-governmental forums should be used skillfully.


2. New fields of cooperation should be initiated. America should take active measures to ease restrictions on high-tech exports to China, to promote the structures of trade and investment between the two countries into a more balanced direction of development.


3. To establish a new methodology of interaction between big powers, the two sides should maintain close coordination and cooperation on issues like the situation on the Korean peninsula, Afghanistan and other international and regional hotspot issues, and strengthen cooperation in combating sea piracy, transnational crime, peacekeeping, disaster relief and prevention, cybersecurity, climate change, space security and other fields of cooperaton.


4. Explore new ways of managing and controlling differences, and actively build a new military relationship that corresponds with the new type of big-power relations. President Obama responded positively and said that America attaches great importance to American-Chinese relations, and that America wants to build a new pattern of cooperation between countries on the foundation of mutual benefit and mutual respect, and to jointly respond to global challenges.


Yang Jiechi said that in short, China hopes that China and America will make joint efforts to firmly and unwervingly advance the building of a new type of big-power relations, along the lines designated by the two countries’ leaders.


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