Xi Jinping Meeting with Joe Biden Reveals New Great Power Relationship
United Daily News editorial (Taipei, Taiwan, Republic of China)
December 6, 2013
Summary: The East China Sea situation is unpredictable. Xi Jinping champions the "Chinese Dream." It has collided with Shinzo Abe's Japanese normalization. The United States appears to be caught between the two aspirations, The two parties are engaged in a struggle. Maneuvering room is shrinking. The situation remains perilous.
Full text below:
This week U.S. Vice President Joe Biden began a tour of Japan, Mainland China, and South Korea. The tour was scheduled even before Beijing announced its Air Defense Identification Zone (ADIZ) in the East China Sea. Now however, this development has changed the focus. The entire world is focused on Biden's stop in Beijing and his meeting with Xi Jinping.
Biden and Xi will meet behind closed doors. The time alloted will be increased from 45 minutes to 2 hours. After the meeting, they will hold a brief press conference. Biden and Xi will resume their meeting again after dinner. Observers are wondering whether Biden will raise the issue of the ADIZ, both during the meeting and press conference. Biden did not say. But that does not mean the issue of ADIZ will not be raised during the meeting.
According to the Mainland Chinese Foreign Ministry, Biden and Xi will address bilateral relations and other issues of shared concern in a frank and in-depth manner. In diplomatese "frank" means that any differences will be raised and discussed.
The next day Biden attended a luncheon held by the American Chamber of Commerce. He said when he meets Xi Jinping, he will straightforwardly express US positions and expectations regarding Mainland China's sudden announcement of an East China Sea ADIZ, which was followed by heightened regional tensions. At the same time, Biden said, Washington is unwilling to strain its relations with Beijing. Therefore it vigorously promotes a new Sino-US great power relationship.
Basically the US backs Japan. This is beyond doubt. Last year, during the Huangyan Island dispute, the United States did not support the Philippines' claim of sovereignty. Asian-Pacific countries are talking in private about the United States' "Return to Asia." They are wondering whether it is tough enough to confront Mainland China. Take ADIZ. If Washington remains silent, everyone will worry that the US is retreating. But this time one of the disputants is Japan, America's most loyal ally in the Asian-Pacific. Recently, with US acquiescence, Abe proposed amending Japan's constitution. Abe proposed establishing a National Security Council, and expanding its definition of collective self-defense. Many other governments think the U.S. defense budget is tight, therefore dependent upon Japan. Only Japan enables it to return to Asia and adhere by its commitment to defend its allies.
But the United States cannot back the Japanese side unconditionally. Japan has swung too far to the right. A backlash is inevitable. South Korea and Mainland China are deeply concerned about the revival of Japanese militarism. They feel the United States has unleashed a vicious Japanese attack dog on them.
Japan claims sovereignty over the Diaoyutai Islands. It has arrogantly proclaimed that its sovereignty must not be challenged. Last year it went so far as to announce its "nationalization." It hopes the islands will be covered by the US-Japan Security Treaty. But the US stance is clear. It acknowledges Japan's administrative authority. But it holds no position regarding the sovereignty dispute. In other words the United States has not expressed support for Japan's claim of sovereignty over the Diaoyutai Islands.
Observers have taken note. Biden arrived in Japan. The Abe government hoped Biden would back Japan. But three days of Japanese-US press conferences show they failed to close the gap. The United States expressed grave concern over Mainland China's announced ADIZ. But it did not demand that Mainland China take it back. This forced Abe to change his demands. Secondly, US and Japanese airline companies continue to sing different tunes regarding the submission of flight plans. Japan cannot force the United States to change its position.
International politics is realpolitik. Frankly, the US posture is based not on justice or international law. A large part of it is concern for Mainland China's reaction. Washington knows that Chinese nationalist sentiment is a powerful force. Chinese leaders must go with the flow. They dare not defy it. If the United States wishes to develop a new great power relationship with Mainland China, it cannot afford to hurt the feelings of the Chinese people.
This shows something else as well. Currently U.S. Asian-Pacific policy focuses on the relationship between US and China. Its chief focus is the new great power relationship. On November 20, National Security Advisor Susan Rice spoke on Asian-Pacific policy. She underscored the need to establish a new great power relationship between major powers. Joe Biden added that the new great power relationship between Mainland China and the US requires trust and optimism regarding each other's motives. Biden and Xi reached this important consensus. Mainland China's Ministry of Foreign Affairs concluded that both sides must promote this new Sino-US great power relationship.
From the perspective of Japan and other Asian-Pacific governments, including the ROC government on Taiwan, this "new great power relationship" looks a lot like the G2 power structure. In short, the Asian-Pacifc order will be determined by the United States and Mainland China. This is not what Japan wants to see. But the U.S. desire to return to Asia, but oppose Mainland China, is self-contradictory. The U.S. itself finds it difficult to justify. But political reality is intractable.
The East China Sea situation is unpredictable. Xi Jinping champions the "Chinese Dream." It has collided with Shinzo Abe's Japanese normalization. The United States appears to be caught between the two aspirations, The two parties are engaged in a struggle. Maneuvering room is shrinking. The situation remains perilous.
2013.12.06 04:21 am