BEIJING — U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton's trip to Asia includes a visit to Beijing this week, where she will meet with Chinese leaders and try to tackle a broad range of issues. The trip comes as tensions are rising in the region over territorial disputes and as concerns grow in China about U.S. efforts to put more emphasis on ties with Asia.
The last time Secretary Clinton was in Beijing, the United States and China were struggling to juggle expansive talks over economic and security ties, while negotiating the fate of blind activist Chen Guangcheng.
This trip will not be as challenging, political analysts say, but given the timing and the recent escalation of disputes, it is not likely to be a routine stopover.
“I don’t think this is a routine visit, I think it is most likely related to the rising tensions between China and Japan and also probably the tensions that calmed down a little bit [recently] between China and the Philippines in the South China Sea,” said Xie Tao, professor at Beijing Foreign Studies University.
The United States is working with the Association of Southeast Asian Nations to try and help members come to grips with China’s rising influence in the region and with what some call its growing assertiveness.
China prefers to handle its disputes with countries one on one and many here see U.S. efforts to shift more attention back to the regional grouping as an attempt to contain China.
"We want to see China act in a fair and transparent way. We want to see them play a positive role in navigation and maritime security issues. We want to see them contribute to sustainable development for the people of the Pacific, to protect the precious environment, including the oceans," stated Clinton.
China says it is not looking to compete for influence and notes that it wants to promote development as well.
However, Xie Tao notes that when disputes such as the recent tensions over the Senkaku islands - or Diaoyudao as they are called in China - flare, it is difficult for Chinese leaders to take a soft approach. “We are in a very sensitive political period you know with this leadership transition and there are very strong incentives for the Chinese leadership to play tough and to play up this nationalist sentiment,” added Xie.
In addition to territorial tensions, Clinton is also expected to discuss the ongoing crisis in Syria, as well as the nuclear programs of Iran and North Korea while she is in Beijing.
Clinton visits China Tuesday and Wednesday, and after that travels on to Timor-Leste and Brunei, before making a final stop in Russia to attend the APEC Economic Leaders Meeting.