China-US relations

Political differences will always divide China and US, analyst says

Other speakers at Beijing conference say incoming president Trump will complicate Sino-US relations even further

PUBLISHED : Friday, 06 January, 2017, 8:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 06 January, 2017, 11:42am

The differences in the political orders of China and the United States are “irreconcilable”, making it difficult to keep relations between the two countries on a stable track, a leading Chinese foreign affairs adviser said.

And on top of these fundamental differences, Sino-US relations under the administration of Donald Trump would be more challenging for Beijing, as Washington is expected to enhance its “encirclement” of China, according to another leading Chinese adviser speaking at an international affairs forum in Beijing yesterday.

Wang Jisi, dean of the school of international studies at Peking University, said a number of issues – including human rights, religion, Taiwan and Hong Kong – could potentially have more impact on Sino-US ties than the South China Sea disputes.

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Wang, who advises Chinese policymakers on foreign affairs and recently sent a report to the government evaluating the US “pivot to Asia”, said Washington had been leading an international order with an emphasis on democratic systems, and that Beijing saw that as interference in its domestic political order.

“To us, the biggest threat posed by the US is a political one, instead of economic or military competition,” Wang said.

“We see the US as always intending to overthrow the Communist Party’s rule over China … and wanting to manipulate our domestic politics.”

Officials and think tanks are seeking to assure stable ties between China and the US ahead of Trump’s January 20 inauguration.

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In a phone conversation with US Secretary of State John Kerry yesterday, Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi said the two nations should develop their ties in the proper direction.

The outgoing secretary of state said the US was committed to the one-China policy in relation to Taiwan, China’s foreign ministry said in a statement.

Trump’s protocol-breaking phone conversation with Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen last month has already drawn ire from China, which has repeatedly called Taiwan one of its most ­sensitive issues.

Tsai will make a stopover in the United States during an upcoming trip to Central America.

Yan Xuetong, another international relations heavyweight with Tsinghua University, said Taiwan was likely to be one of the “pawns” for Trump in containing China.

“Containing the rise of China will become the prime goal of Trump’s China policy, with the focus shifting away from the Asia-Pacific and leaning over East Asia,” Yan said.

Moving away from the focus on Southeast Asian countries that came with US President Barack Obama’s “rebalance” to Asia, Trump was likely to move closer to Japan, South Korea, India, Singapore, Thailand, Vietnam and Russia to encircle China, Yan said.

“The reason Trump is getting closer with Russia is not only because Putin helped him win the election, but also about the important role that Russia plays in East Asian politics,” he said.

Russia in recent years has also rolled out its own version of a pivot to Asia policy, with its president, Vladimir Putin, actively courting cooperation with regional powers including China, Japan and South Korea.

Apocalyptic visions of Sino-US relations are a road to nowhere

Amid uncertainty over the future of Sino-American ties, Wang called on Chinese leaders to take the lead in shaping the direction of policy.

“Instead of focusing too much on every word said by Trump, it is better to think about what China wants in terms of future Sino-US relations, and how to shape a relationship that is beneficial to the long-term interests of China,” Wang said.

Additional reporting by Shi Jiangtao