Chinese President Xi Jinping shakes hands with visiting US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson on Sunday in Beijing. Photo: Xinhua
US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson told Chinese President Xi Jinping on Sunday that the US would like to develop the relationship with China based on the spirits of "mutual respect" and "win-win cooperation," with analysts believing that this means Tillerson has implicitly endorsed the new model of major power relations.
Xi stressed that cooperation is the only right option for both sides during his meeting with the visiting secretary of state.
"You said that China-US relations can only be friendly. I express my appreciation for this," Xi said.
Xi also said he had communicated with President Donald Trump several times through telephone conversations and messages. "We both believe that China-US cooperation henceforth is the direction we are both striving for. We are both expecting a new era for constructive development."
"The joint interests of China and the US far outweigh the differences, and cooperation is the only correct choice for us both," Xi added.
Tillerson said President Trump is looking forward to meeting with President Xi and to have the opportunity to visit China.
Tillerson further said the summit will confirm the direction of Sino-US relations in the next 50 years. The US would like to develop the bilateral relationship with China based on "the spirit of no conflict, no confrontation, mutual respect, and win-win cooperation," the Xinhua News Agency reported.
In 2010, China put forward a new model of major power relations, in which the core concepts are "no conflict, no confrontation, mutual respect, and win-win cooperation." Beijing hoped Washington would accept these principles to develop the Sino-US relationship as the right way to avoid the Thucydides trap, a theory which says that a rising power and an established super power are bound to engage in conflicts.
While China welcomes the endorsement of its model, which the previous administration of Barack Obama refused to do, we need to observe the US' words and deeds going forward to see if it is credible, said Shi Yinhong, director of the Center for American Studies at the Renmin University of China.
"Tillerson said these words because Trump wants to create a friendly atmosphere and environment for the upcoming summit," Shi said.
During Obama's era, China always stressed these principles, but there was no record that the US side did the same.
"In that time, the US refused to accept the concept of 'mutual respect,' because it refused to accept China's definition of 'core interests,'" Shi said.
"'Mutual respect' will give US allies in the Asia-Pacific region an impression that China and the US are equal in the region, so to accept 'mutual respect' will undermine US authority among its allies. This is what the Obama administration believed," said An Gang, a US studies expert and a member of the academic committee of the Pangoal Institution, a Beijing-based think tank.
Tillerson was not speaking personally, but after a serious decision made by the US, because Trump wants to start a relationship with China different from his predecessor's. China should cautiously welcome Tillerson's words. At least this is a step forward and a result of China's diplomatic efforts, An said.
"We should learn from the lessons of Obama's era, which is that everything looks happy and friendly during the summit, but in reality, the US makes little compromises or even acts more aggressively," Shi noted.
Since Trump took office, his recognition of the "one-China policy" is the biggest achievement so far, but in many other areas, such as the Taiwan question, the South China Sea and the Korean Peninsula, we still need to wait and see, Shi said.
Words are not enough
"Both countries agree on 'no conflict and no confrontation' and for 'win-win cooperation,' we can see how both cooperate on global challenges. The most difficult part is 'mutual respect,' because it covers many sensitive areas such as human rights, Taiwan, the South China Sea, and so on," said Diao Daming, a research fellow at the Institute of American Studies at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences.
US Acting Assistant Secretary of State Susan Thornton had previously told reporters that the US was "pursuing a results-oriented relationship with China."
The concept of "results-oriented" might reflect US understanding of "mutual respect," An said. "A results-oriented relationship means the US will push the Sino-US relationship based on the results or effects of every single instance of Sino-US cooperation."
"Currently, the US needs China's cooperation and respect on issues like trade and the Korean Peninsula, so China needs to consider to what extent it can provide what the US wants at this moment," An said.