Officials to pave way for Xi's visit

Updated: 2015-08-11 04:33

By ZHAO YINAN and LI JIANLIN in Beijing and CHEN WEIHUA in Washington(China Daily USA)

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Advance exchange to focus on South China Sea, cybersecurity

China and the United States will exchange visits by officials in preparation for the upcoming September state visit by President Xi Jinping to the US, the first state visit by a Chinese president since 2011.

Analysts said the senior officials are to assess the impact of recent escalated tension on cybersecurity and South China Sea, prior to Xi's visit.

Foreign Ministry spokesman Lu Kang said on Monday that several senior US officials will visit China in August and September, while officials from China visit the US.

Niu Jun, a professor of international relations at Peking University, said that apart from finalizing the schedule and ceremonial details of Xi's visit, the officials are likely to exchange views on cybersecurity and the South China Sea, issues that have raised tensions in the months since the visit was officially announced in February.

"Reports in the US media accusing China of being the biggest online hacking suspect have made cybersecurity a top issue in bilateral relations at the moment; and the tone doesn't seem to have lowered despite the upcoming visit of state leaders," Niu said.

"As for the issue of the South China Sea, the two sides are still working to find a solution acceptable to both to manage the regional situation," he added.

He said the advance officials will assess the impact of these issues on bilateral relations and the social atmosphere, as well as decide whether or not these topics should be put high on the agenda of the visit.

He said it is a tradition to send officials ahead of significant leadership trips to help ensure that arrangements are carried out smoothly.

China-US relations warmed after US President Barack Obama visited Beijing in November. The leaders of the world's two largest economies had a one-on-one talk that lasted for almost five hours in the Zhongnanhai leadership compound. Agreements on extended business, tourist and student visa policies and carbon emission reduction were some of the major achievements of the meetings.

In March 2014, US first lady Michelle Obama and her two daughters completed a seven-day visit to China.

More recently, controversy has been stirred up by reports carried by The New York Times in which China was accused of stealing the personal information of millions of Americans by hacking the database of the Office of Personnel Management.

In addition, tensions have been growing over the South China Sea. China has expressed concerns about US military surveillance overflights, and US officials have criticized China’s construction activity on the Nansha Islands.

Jeffrey Bader, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution and a former special assistant to President Obama for national security affairs at the National Security Council, told China Daily in a recent interview that neither the South China Sea nor cyber issues can be resolved.

"These issues need to be managed," he said. "I am hopeful that President Xi will find a way to lower tensions on these two issues, by making some announcements or decisions that basically give direction on these two issues."

"I think Xi Jinping can give a boost," said Bader, describing Xi as a leader with a "very good personal touch."

Wang Fan, professor of international relations at China Foreign Affairs University, said China is planning, during Xi's visit, to formulate policy orientations for the coming decade.

The two nations will reach strategic agreements to lay the foundation of future bilateral relations, Wang said.

One consensus that the two countries reached in the past is that neither China nor the US benefit from confrontation, he said, cooperation is the best approach to developing interdependent relations.

"The US has to understand the growing power of China and not misread its peaceful pursuit of higher international status and clout," he added.

Wang said bilateral relations have evolved along with the diminishing gap in national strength, while tensions have risen alongside deepened cooperation. Agreements achieved on the upcoming visit will stabilize bilateral relations in the future, he said.

While fighting extremist group ISIS in the Middle East, the Iran nuclear deal and tensions with Russia over Ukraine are regarded as top foreign policy issues in the US these days, some US politicians and news media often bash China, despite the generally healthy bilateral relationship between the two countries. Bilateral trade approached $600 billion last year and 270,000 Chinese students, about a third of all international students currently in the US, are studying in US universities and colleges.

The two countries have also recently exchanged negative lists in negotiating a Bilateral Investment Treaty (BIT) and a shorter list is expected to be exchanged in the coming two months. The BIT is expected to open new opportunities in bilateral investment ties.