This is a big week in US/Chinese diplomacy, but will it be a defining moment? Euronews asked analyst and the author of “How China’s leaders think”, Robert Lawrence Kuhn.
euronews journalist Nial O’Reilly:
“Dr Kuhn, in recent interviews with the American press, President Hu has been speaking about breaking from the past. Do you see this trip as the springboard for a great leap forward in US/China relations?”
“This has been the worst year in US/China relations since perhaps 1972, when the sides began to talk to each other again. What has happened this year is that you’ve had this overarching economic problem, trade imbalances, disputes over currency that have percolated in both countries.
“Then layered over that [were] the arms sales to Taiwan, human rights, the Nobel peace prize, China making aggressive statements in the South China Sea. So at this point both President Obama and President Hu wisely said ‘let’s take a step back, let’s use the occasion of President Hu coming here to reset, so to speak, the agenda – this is what’s critical.
“So although [they will] deal with a lot of issues on the environment, on global warming, touching on the sensitive issues of Taiwan and trade and human rights, what is more important than all of that is the perception, the perception of President Obama inviting President Hu to a private dinner in the White House.”
“Which side do you think will come out happier from this trip in the end?”
“I think the Chinese have a better perception of what they’re trying to achieve in terms of the symbolism, whereas the American side are looking for more specific help on issues like North Korea and Iran and the sensitive issues of currency and trade.
“And I think there will be movement on all of these, but not all that much. And those who are looking for real breakthroughs in substance will probably be disappointed.”
“There’s a theory that this is actually more important for President Hu than President Obama.”
“I think both presidents have issues here. President Obama has come out of an election in which he really got a good thumping and he is looking to his re-election and what he has to do. Jobs are important, how he deals with international affairs, how he gives a perception that the American economy is moving again, and China is critical to all of that.
“As far as President Hu is concerned he’s coming up to the end of his second term – 10 years in office – and this is something of a valedictory for him, where he is looking to his legacy. He has met President Obama seven times but this is the first state visit [by a Chinese leader] under President Obama’s administration, and so it’s very important.
“So, when he’s in Washington being afforded this full grand state visit with all the pomp and circumstance that the United States would pay to its most favourite ally – and China is getting that – that’s a good part of President Hu’s legacy and something he can point to.”