The meeting between Chinese President Xi Jinping
and US President Donald Trump
at the Mar-a-Lago resort in Palm Beach, Florida was a great success, garnering positive comments from international media. Although the relationship between the two powers hung in an area of uncertainty when President Trump first took office in January, it is clearly now on the constructive path toward developing a cooperative bilateral relationship. A transition such as this has sent positive signals to the entire world.
Beijing and Washington have both applauded the Xi-Trump meeting. Moreover, Western media have been reassured that cooperation is the underlying current of the China-US relationship. After another cycle of learning curve ups-and-downs, Western nations have gradually adapted to the fact that the two world powers will inevitably work together. They start to believe that China and the US have no better option other than cooperation.
Neither China nor US can afford the hefty price of abandoning means of cooperation. Neither goes all out of their way to push the other. Despite the potential structural conflicts between them, both countries are trying all possible means to mitigate them. Washington senses Beijing's genuine aspirations for peaceful growth, and Beijing sees that Washington has not made it a top priority to contain China's rise in its own national strategy.
From an objective viewpoint, the specific differences between China and the US are trivial, especially when juxtaposed with the rise and fall of former great powers over the course of human civilization. From the perspective of Beijing, the US possesses a level of supreme power that could place Washington at a higher level, and yet it often ends up involved with small and convenient calculations. Beijing has tried hard to comprehend the reasons behind such actions. From Washington’s perspective, China is rising at an amazing or perhaps even terrifying rate, and Washington is making efforts to figure out the reasoning behind China’s "core interests.”
The Mar-a-Lago meeting was impressive on many levels. It certainly helped that the leaders of the two powerful nations had an opportunity to get to know each another better, develop friendship, and get along with each other on a personal and professional level. The two leaders were able to speak face-to-face about each other's ideas of running their own countries while laying out a diplomatic strategy. Efforts such as these will help the two countries reduce the risk of making hasty or impractical decisions in the future.
The new mechanisms for four high-level dialogues created during the Xi-Trump meeting are more comprehensive than the US-China Strategic and Economic Dialogue that emerged during the Obama era. The new developments will help the two countries communicate effectively on a wider range of issues. They have also established a Joint Staff Dialogue mechanism to address military issues. If carried out effectively, these new communication paths will serve as another buffer to help avoid escalating friction that could lead to severe confrontations on a strategic level.
It is not an easy task for an established superpower and an emerging power to build a bond of trust with one another. There has hardly been such a precedent in human history. With that in mind, the creation of such a bond, whereby the US and China nurture a healthy relationship, is a pioneering endeavor all by itself. The achievements of both countries in this area have extended beyond expectations.
On the other hand, the successful Xi-Trump meeting does not necessarily guarantee fewer bumps on the road ahead. China will use what it has learned from valuable past experiences in order to steer through this new relationship with President Trump. Certainly China will maintain its position in shaping key issues and ensuring long-term stability within the China-US relationship.
China has to be in possession of enough power in order for the US to benefit more from cooperation than from confrontation. It is also important for China to consistently strengthen its military power, thus ensuring respect from Washington. Meanwhile, China is fully aware that its overall strength still falls behind the US.
China needs to protect its core interests without hesitation at any time, while remaining cognizant and considerate of other countries and their concerns. Balancing both confidence and self-restraint is a test of political wisdom. As one of the world's longest-living civilizations, China shall reveal a wonderful display of confidence and thoughtfulness that will amaze the world.