U.S. National Security Advisor Tom Donilon is holding talks with Chinese officials in Beijing in preparation for an upcoming meeting between the two countries' presidents. As differences grow between the United States and China, they are searching for a new model for relations.
During their meetings Monday, U.S. and Chinese officials stressed their hope that the informal early June talks between President Barack Obama and China’s new leader Xi Jinping will help the two sides strengthen ties at a crucial time.
Just months after China carried out a once-in-a-decade leadership reshuffle, the United States and China are facing some of their biggest challenges in decades and distrust is deepening.
The list of concerns ranges widely, from traditional differences over North Korea and Iran to other issues such as cyber security and China’s territorial disputes with its neighbors from Japan to the South China Sea.
National Security Advisor Tom Donilon said “The meeting will be an important opportunity for our two presidents to have an in-depth discussion of U.S. - China relations and a wide range of regional and global challenges facing both our countries.”
During his meetings Monday, Donilon met with Chinese State Councilor Yang Jiechi and President Xi Jinping. Xi said the U.S.-China relationship is at a critical juncture.
“On the very day I was elected president of China, I had a telephone conversation with President Obama. During that conversation, we both reaffirmed our commitment to building China - U.S. ties and exploring a new type of major country relationship. We believe this lays out the course for the steady growth of strong ties between the two countries," he said.
Search for new model
Just what this new model will look like remains unclear. In a speech in March, Donilon said that more cooperation and communication on issues that matter are needed to build the model.
He spoke about the need for a deeper military-to-military dialogue, strengthened economic relations and the importance Washington places on cyber security.
"This model is a slow process, it cannot be resolved through one, two or three meetings. The answer probably not be found for another 10 to 20 years," said Cheng Xiaohe, a political scientist at Renmin University in Beijing.
Cheng said the new model is a Chinese concept and that refers to relations between two powers - one a rising power and the other an established one. He said that when Obama and Xi meet in California on June 7 and 8, one key issue will be managing relations between the two countries.
"The Pacific is big enough for both China and the U.S. and during the upcoming meeting the two sides will talk about avoiding conflicts and address other big issues such as currency, commerce, China’s market liberalization, U.S. military sanctions and restrictions on exports to China," Cheng said.
Cheng added that from China’s point of view, Beijing's dispute with Japan over islands in the East China Sea is also crucial because it involves both Japan and the United States. He said the two sides are also likely to discuss North Korea and Syria.
On Tuesday, National Security Advisor Donilon is scheduled to meet with Chinese Defense Ministry officials before departing.