US to pave way for Obama's China visit

Updated: 2014-09-04 04:44

By ZHANG YUNBI in Beijing and CHEN WEIHUA in Washington(China Daily USA)

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US National Security Advisor Susan Rice's upcoming visit to China will help pave the way for upcoming meetings between Chinese and US leaders and provide an opportunity to raise issues of contention between the two countries, experts on China-US relations said.

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Qin Gang confirmed on Wednesday that Rice will visit China from Sept 7-9 at the invitation of State Councilor Yang Jiechi.

There will be an "exchange of views on the China-US relationship and other important issues of mutual concern", Qin said.

Rice "will underscore the US commitment to building a productive relationship between our two countries", US National Security Council spokeswoman Caitlin Hayden said in a statement on Tuesday.

US President Barack Obama is expected to visit China on Nov 12 after attending the APEC summit in Beijing on Nov 10-11. He and Chinese President Xi Jinping are also likely to meet in the United Nations in New York in late September, if Xi decides to attend the UN General Assembly meetings, which will have a heavy emphasis on climate change.

It will be Rice's first trip to China as National Security Advisor, a job she took on July 1 of last year after Republican Senators opposed Obama's nomination of Rice as Secretary of State to succeed Hillary Clinton, citing her role in the aftermath of the 2012 attack on the US consulate in Benghazi in Libya. Rice eventually withdrew her nomination.

Douglas Paal, vice-president for studies and director of the Asia program at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, a Washington-based think tank, said Rice's visit is to set parameters for the meeting between Obama and Xi on Nov 12, as well as to provide a framework view of American policy and seek cooperation on major strategic issues.

Paal believes those issues include the crisis over Ukraine, Iran nuclear talks, the Middle East and ISIS and the East and South China seas, where China and the US hold somewhat different approaches on how to solve the maritime territorial disputes.

"I hope she can find a way to express both the positive cooperation the US values with China, as well as explore the more troublesome issues," Paal said.

Yuan Peng, a US studies expert at the China Institute of Contemporary International Relations, said what is behind the security adviser's visit is the ongoing efforts by both countries to "drag the relationship back on track".

Her visit — in the capacity of a core designer of the Obama administration's security policy — is surely aimed at "making preparations for Obama's visit to China", and the trip will give her a chance to get a full understanding of China, Yuan said.

In Washington's eyes, China has been showing "increasing assertiveness" in the South China Sea because of its growing strength. For China, the US rebalance to Asia strategy is largely aimed at China, including rallying its security allies and countries which have territorial disputes with China.

There have been "a surging frequency and intensity recently of Washington's strategic initiatives and actions targeting China", said Shi Yinhong, a professor of Sino-US relationship studies at Renmin University of China.

The recent close encounter of a US reconnaissance plane and a Chinese fighter jet over the South China Sea 220 km from Hainan Island has led to several rounds of back-and-forth barbs from foreign affairs and defense authorities.

"While bickering between the two powers is somewhat common, it is of great urgency to get disputes under control," said Liu Xuecheng, a researcher of US studies at the China Institute of International Studies.

Rice's style as the US ambassador to the United Nations prior to her current post drew much criticism when she called China and Russia "disgusting" after the two vetoed a UN Security Council resolution on sanctions of Syria, after the US and its NATO allies abused a UN no-fly zone resolution to go for regime change in Libya. Former National Security Advisor Zbigniew Brzezinski mentioned on several occasions that Rice's behavior was undiplomatic.

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