Xi Jinping and Barack Obama Pang Xinglei/Zuma Wire

When Xi Meets Obama

The world’s most important bilateral relationship is in deep trouble. Will this week's summit between Chinese President Xi Jinping and US President Barack Obama reverse the downward spiral in Sino-American relations of the last two years?

CLAREMONT, CALIFORNIA – As Chinese President Xi Jinping begins his trip to the United States in Seattle, home to many of the world’s leading technology firms, most observers are looking ahead to his subsequent meeting with President Barack Obama. Can the summit reverse the downward spiral in US-China relations that began with Xi’s accession to power in 2013?

Few dispute that the world’s most important bilateral relationship is in deep trouble. From the US perspective, China’s reckless behavior in the South China Sea, unrestrained cyber attacks against American targets, protectionist economic policies, and escalating political repression at home have demolished the belief that a globally integrated China would be a responsible and cooperative partner. Indeed, recent Chinese actions directly challenge vital American interests and core values.

Chinese leaders, for their part, view America’s strategic “pivot to Asia” as a thinly veiled step to tighten its geopolitical containment of China. Moreover, they have become obsessed with US dominance in international finance and technology and, most important, America’s ideological commitment to liberal democracy, which they regard as an existential threat to the Chinese Communist Party (CCP).

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