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  • U.S. President Donald Trump and China's President Xi Jinping arrive for a state dinner at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing.

    U.S. President Donald Trump and China's President Xi Jinping arrive for a state dinner at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing. | Photo: Reuters

Published 9 November 2017
The leaders of the world’s two biggest economic and military powers are doing more than just clinking glasses and sharing Chinese cookies.

The presidents of China and the U.S. are currently meeting for a summit that is being closely watched by the rest of the world. Significantly, it's the first visit by a foreign leader since last month's 19th National Congress of the Communist Party of China, CPC, and the two sides have been working hard to ensure the second extended parley this year will be highly fruitful.

US-Chinese Relations on a 'New Historical Starting Point'

Ahead of his China visit, Trump stopped just short of deifying his waiting host, congratulating him in fulsome terms on his re-election as CPC general secretary for another five years.

However, never mind the platitudinous pleasantries. The leaders of the world’s two biggest economic and military powers are doing more than just clinking glasses and sharing Chinese cookies during their round of ceremonial pomp and hard talking.

Interestingly, apart from the formalities, "informal interactions" have also been arranged between host and visitor. These represent an opportunity for the former to inform his guest that the just-released U.S. government report on climate change since 2013 has proven, yet again and beyond meaningful doubt, that the dangerous phenomena is a universal product, not one "Made in China."

Bilateral ties

What should be uppermost on the two leaders' minds are key issues related to bilateral trade and economic ties, while working together to seek solutions to the world's most challenging economic and social problems.

President Xi may encourage his guest to temper his usually flammable rhetoric on Korean Peninsula issues, to be more sensitive to the territorial peculiarities involved, and to understand the state of mind of the millions of affected people – including hundreds of thousands of American troops and their families living in zones at risk of oblivion.

The guest can also be encouraged to understand that ratcheting up Korean tensions by the major players through military maneuvers and missile tests doesn't serve either side’s stated desire for regional peace and security.

Certainly, the Moon administration in Seoul shows clear signs of unwillingness to opt for any military solution. Seoul has offered three very notable assurances: no more U.S. THAAD missiles (than the only battery now on its soil), no involvement in any joint regional military alliance, and not joining the U.S. and Japan to attack North Korea.

Magic wand

President Trump has long labored under the illusion that China can wave a magic wand to "restrain North Korea," but China remains in strict compliance with U.N. sanctions on the DPRK, while continuing to insist that the U.S. and its allies respect Seoul’s preferred peaceful option.

China's next five years on the road to a more secure and prosperous future under socialism with Chinese characteristics requires creation now – more than ever – of guaranteed mechanisms for successful implementation of its vital role internationally.

In the present context of a more inward-looking U.S. and a more outward-reaching China, Beijing must also more carefully weigh China's regional options in a global context.

China’s deep integration with the world's economy and its increasing political and diplomatic leverage as an established serious, flexible global player will actually enhance Sino-U.S. ties.

The summit offers the two leaders several opportunities for strategic communication on significant issues of common concern and to build new consensus, as well as to enhance mutual understanding and friendship and promote bilateral relations in all spheres.

Two-way investment

However, solving the China-U.S. trade imbalance will require increasing American exports to China and increasing two-way investment, rather than relying on the U.S. trying to restrict Chinese imports.

The complementarity of trade between the two countries is such that a trade war would harm both, while the potential for cooperation is great. They share common interests and shoulder mutual responsibilities, especially in safeguarding and preserving world peace and stability and promoting global development and prosperity.

China is ready to work with the U.S., on the basis of mutual respect, to pursue mutual benefit, focus on cooperation and properly manage their differences.

Getting his guest to grasp all the above during a 72-hour visit requires all of President Xi's considerable persuasive powers.

And, while much more can be done, important mechanisms for China-U.S. cooperation at bilateral and global levels already exist and only need to be activated with more defined continuity to ease the possibilities of confrontation.

Earl Bousquet is a contributor to china.org.cn, editor-at-large of The Diplomatic Courier and author of an online regional newspaper column entitled Chronicles of a Chronic Caribbean Chronicler.

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