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China-US relations: stabilization without breakthroughs

September 28, 2015, 20:50 UTC+3 Alexandrova Lyudmila
© AP Photo/Andrew Harnik

MOSCOW, September 28. /TASS/. No great breakthroughs are in sight, but a worsening of bilateral US-Chinese relations has been prevented. This is the gist of comments by Russian experts regarding the results of Chinese President Xi Jinping’s visit to the United States.

"The visit took pace against the background of certain tensions in Chinese-US relations over cyber-terrorism accusations addressed to China," the head of the School of Oriental Studies at the Higher School of Economics, Aleksey Maslov, has told TASS. "The slump of Chinese markets, where the United States has invested a lot, was the other issue the Americans found worrisome. First thing Xi made it clear to the United States there was nothing to worry about. He confirmed China’s stable development and the intention to advance trading relations with the United States."

The contract with Boeing concluded during the visit is seen as a breakthrough, Maslov said. It envisages both purchases of planes and the creation of aircraft-building plants in China. Lastly, it is very important that the China and the United States signed an agreement to refrain from cyber-attacks against each other and to notify each other of likely cyber threats.

In a word, there has been a noticeable rapprochement between the United States and China on key issues, Maslov bellieves. However, problems remain. "China is extremely worried over the United States’ growing military presence in East and Southeast Asia. No agreements were achieved on that score. Also, China has been taking various steps in attempts to turn the yuan into a world reserve currency. The United States is firmly against this. The disagreement remains, too."

"As a matter of fact, the standoff between China and the United States as potential hegemons is still there. For the time being China does not feel itself as an absolutely equitable player," Maslov said.

Political scientist Mikhail Karpov, a connoisseur of Chinese affairs, disagrees with those Russian mass media which claimed that the United States and China were in confrontation with each other. He sees neither any breakthrough nor a fundamental worsening in bilateral relations. "There is no confrontation and it would be utterly wrong to invent any," he told TASS. "But their relations are no easy ones. The amount of mutual distrust, misunderstanding and ambitions is enormous. In their bilateral relations there do exist some major problems: the situation in Southeast Asia, Taiwan, and the cyber sphere. Underwater rocks are many. It could not be otherwise in relations between countries as complex as these two. The United States is an advocate of the status quo in the system of international relations, while China is determined to expand its presence in this system. Naturally, the United States is not always happy about that."

The two countries have stabilized their relations and this is the main result of Xi’s visit, says senior research fellow at the Institute of the Far East under the Russian Academy of Sciences, Vasily Kashin. "Nobody had expected the visit to produce any breakthroughs," he told TASS. "But they were quite successful in preventing an uncontrollable worsening of relations. They managed to stabilize them."

An important agreement on cooperation in the cyberspace was concluded, Kashin said. "It does not guarantee anything as such and it is hard to implement, but it indicates the wish to stabilize relations. A dialogue was conducted on other major issues. The Chinese leadership strengthened contacts with major US businesses."

Many problems in bilateral relations stem from the fact that the Chinese economy is getting pretty close to that of the United States in terms of influence on global processes, Kashin believes. China will not agree to be built into the world order being created by the United States. It will be trying to do things its own way. "This concerns everything, from the economy, technologies and science to the military sphere and international political issues. Clearly, China sees itself as an international actor in its own right, and it will never permit the recognition of another country’s formal leadership over itself."

The United States and China will not rid themselves of the current problems, but they are capable of ensuring a situation where there will be no uncontrollable confrontation or major ups and downs, Kashin said. "There will be steady competition in various maters, but no crises or armed conflicts. This is what diplomacy is needed for," he added.

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