The United States Secretary of State John Kerry arrives in Beijing this weekend. This signifies the first structured high level political exchange between the US and China in President Barack Obama’s second term as well as since President Xi Jinping assumed office. Indeed, some amount of “groundbreaking” had taken place during the visit by the US Treasury Secretary Jack Lew in the third week of March, who also happened to be Xi’s first visitor from abroad after becoming China’s president.
That the two countries are approaching politics through the gateway of economic partnership needs to be noted at the outset, given that a curious pantomime of cooperation and competition constitutes the Sino-American relationship at this point in time.
Kerry’s talks will undoubtedly focus on the North Korea problem. Washington is exhorting Beijing to “do more.” Beijing is willing to go as the by-now famous remark by Xi that no country should be allowed to damage world peace or throw a region into chaos for selfish gains. But then, Xi also called upon “countries – big or small, strong or weak, rich or poor” all to “contribute their share in maintaining and enhancing peace” and pointed out that globalisation does not allow “an arena where gladiators fight each other.”
The ghost at the table where Kerry sits across his Chinese hosts will be the US’ “rebalancing” in Asia. Kerry hinted once at some unease that the “rebalancing” had an excessive military projection, which worried China. Since then, of course, the Asia-Pacific security has dramatically changed.