Monday, June 3, 2013

Ignatius: China-U.S. meeting truly "historic"

U.S. officials say they are looking for a strategic discussion rather than a “deliverable.” (from "Xi Jingping and Barack Obama: A summit worthy of the name" by David Ignatius, Washington Post, in Toronto Star, June 3, 2013, excerpted below)

Relationships, at least the healthy mutually supportive and beneficial ones, take time, diligence and persistence. "Deliverables" are required by those who see everything in short-term transactional terms..."you scratch my back and I'll scratch your's".
Sovereignty over islands in dispute with Japan is not an issue in which the U.S. wishes to become involved, although the treaty with Japan could force their hand.
Athorough discussion on macroeconomics, however, is something both countries have a huge vested interest in conducting, and perhaps even drawing some pencil outlines for futher consideration. However, with China acquiring resource industries in the west, including pork in the U.S. and natural gas in Canada, as well as 8% of the U.S. Treasury Bills, there is a growing imbalance yielding to China in global economic power. The U.S. has squandered too many dollars and far too many lives in military conflict over the last decade-plus, with very little to show for their expenditures putting Mr. Obama in a severely secondary position when it comes to macroeconomics, notwithstanding the veneer of recovery that includes a galloping stock market and rising housing prices, but still lacks the kind of employment recovery that is sustainable.
However, it is on the cyber-war-front that the U.S. has both demands and a solid position of strength from which to negotiate...it has been China that has committed the hacking-bullying of military and corporate "systems" in their obsession with winning the "race to the top" of world supremacy against the U.S. And it is the American military superiority that has for too long been the chief jewel in the crown of U.S. hegemony around the world. Now that the Chinese have infiltrated and even brazenly stolen many of the U.S. secrets systems, Obama has no option but to secure a commitment from China to "cease and desist" on this front.
With many more people, a controlled central government, a burgeoning industrial capacity, an expanded interest in trading with the rest of the world, China is, without doubt, the emerging country on the world's stage, seeking parity with or even eventually dominance over the U.S.....and that is where Obama has to be most cautious. He cannot return to Washington from this conference empty-handed even though "deliverables" are not the primary purpose of the meeting.
The U.S. media, fixated on and addicted to both conflict and immediate "deliverables" will put considerable pressure on the administration to "bring home the bacon" from this conference, and that pressure could be enough to sabotage the entire meeting, given the need for some immediate results in what is a multi-century-long relationship, both past and future.
There are two different time-frames: the U.S. in nano-seconds, for deliverables and the Chinese, in centuries for long-term supremacy....guess who is more worthy of a successful bet?


Xi Jingping and Barack Obama: A summit worthy of the name


The next week will test whether Chinese President Xi Jinping intends to play a more engaged role with America and the world.

By David Ignatius, Washington Post, in Toronto Star, June 3, 2013 ....
The Chinese also want a partnership in managing the global economy. Vice-Premier Wang Yang told visiting U.S. national security adviser Thomas Donilon that the two nations should “strengthen macroeconomic policy co-ordination, and jointly promote world economic recovery and growth.”

Beijing has come a long way from its skepticism during the depth of the Great Recession, when American capitalism seemed like the god that had failed. In a speech at the 2009 World Economic Forum in Davos, then-prime minister Wen Jiabao chided “inappropriate macroeconomic policies” and greedy banks, and called the American model “unsustainable.” The Chinese have changed their tune, thanks to solid economic measures by the Obama administration. Now they want even more free-market policies, on the American model.
The toughest nut will be cyber issues. Here, Chinese behaviour has been egregious, stealing hundreds of billions of dollars’ worth of U.S. technology over the last decade, including many of the most secret U.S. weapons systems. Donilon said in March that the U.S. wants three things: a Chinese recognition that this is a real and urgent problem; a Chinese commitment to investigate; and agreement to co-operate on a framework for cyber protection. That will be the agenda at Sunnylands, but U.S. officials say they are looking for a strategic discussion rather than a “deliverable.”
The U.S.-China relationship is the biggest play on the board of international relations. This is an area where Donilon’s hyper-organized approach, which sometimes annoys his colleagues, has paid dividends. The U.S. has been building the groundwork for a new relationship with Xi for more than a year, and Donilon rightly says it could be Obama’s “signature achievement.”
U.S. officials stress in every speech about China the paramount need for military-to-military dialogue. Perhaps history would have been different if Spartan and Athenian commanders had been friendly, though I’m not sure. But given the stakes, this week’s summit meeting between Obama and Xi actually deserves the term “historic.”
David Ignatius is a Washington Post columnist. davidignatius@washpost.com





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