Sum­mit can clar­ify is­sues: ex-en­voy

China Daily (Canada) - - FRONT PAGE - By CHEN WEIHUA in Washington chen­wei­hua@chi­nadai­lyusa.com

The sum­mit be­tween Pres­i­dent Xi Jin­ping and Pres­i­dent Barack Obama gives them a chance to clear the air on im­por­tant is­sues haunting the bi­lat­eral re­la­tion­ship, ac­cord­ing to a for­mer US am­bas­sador to China.

In Sta­ple­ton Roy’s view, is­sues such as cy­ber­se­cu­rity, the South China Sea and the re­cent stock mar­ket shocks in China that have spilled over to the US and other coun­tries should be on the agenda.

But he sug­gested that many other im­por­tant is­sues that will be ad­dressed con­struc­tively by the two lead­ers have not got nearly enough at­ten­tion. He was mostly re­fer­ring to the news media, which have ex­ces­sively fo­cused on cy­ber­hack­ing and the South China Sea while ig­nor­ing many other im­por­tant is­sues.

He cited the ex­am­ple of last Novem­ber’s sum­mit in Bei­jing when the two sides reached break­throughs on cli­mate change and mil­i­tary con­fi­dence-build­ing, say­ing no­body was an­tic­i­pat­ing such agree­ments.

Cui Tiankai, Chi­nese am­bas­sador to the US, told the press on Sept 5 that Xi’s visit will be a suc­cess and pro­duce fruit­ful re­sults. He said it will be a “pleas­ant sur­prise when made public”.

While not­ing the in­creas­ing ri­valry be­tween the two coun­tries, Roy said the mech­a­nisms for dis­cussing is­sues from the top down are the bet­ter than they’ve ever been.

“When I was am­bas­sador to China, I was lucky if I could get a cab­i­net min­is­ter to come to have a dis­cus­sion, and there were no pres­i­den­tial ex­changes be­tween China and the United States dur­ing the four years when I was in Bei­jng,” Roy said on Tues­day, af­ter mod­er­at­ing a talk on Malaysia’s and Sin­ga­pore’s views of the US re­bal­ance-to-Asia strat­egy.

Roy, who was born in China in 1935 to mis­sion­ary par­ents, served as the US am­bas­sador there from 1991 to 1995 when the re­la­tion­ship was in bad shape.

“Now these types of meet­ings are tak­ing place on a reg­u­lar ba­sis, mul­ti­ple times a year in many cases,” he said of the sum­mits. “And I think that’s a very im­por­tant de­vel­op­ment, be­cause if you can­not com­mu­ni­cate, you can’t solve prob­lems.”

De­scrib­ing the US-China re­la­tion­ship as a dif­fi­cult one, Roy, now a distin­guished scholar at the Kissinger In­sti­tute on China and the United States at the Wil­son Cen­ter, said hav­ing reg­u­lar sum­mits be­tween the two lead­ers is a cru­cial as­pect of man­ag­ing ri­val­ries and dif­fer­ences, along with the enor­mous ar­eas of co­op­er­a­tion.

Un­like some who pointed to the sour mood of the re­la­tion­ship ahead of Xi’s up­com­ing visit, Roy noted that there is never the same mood go­ing into any sum­mit be­cause of the chang­ing in­ter­na­tional sit­u­a­tion and the shift­ing at­ti­tudes af­fected by im­me­di­ate prob­lems.

“I don’t be­lieve the mood go­ing into this sum­mit is in­com­pat­i­ble with hav­ing a con­struc­tive out­come,” he said.

He said it was the same in the case of the Sun­ny­lands in­for­mal sum­mit in Cal­i­for­nia in June 2013, and there was a lot of un­cer­tainty about the re­la­tion­ship be­fore last Novem­ber’s sum­mit in Bei­jing.

“That turned out to be a pro­duc­tive sum­mit,” Roy said. “So I don’t think one should at­tach too much im­por­tance to the mood in terms of what the out­come may be.”

Cy­ber­se­cu­rity was a ma­jor is­sue ahead of the Sun­ny­lands sum­mit, but the rev­e­la­tions made by for­mer Na­tional Se­cu­rity Agency (NSA) con­trac­tor Ed­ward Snow­den of the ag­gres­sive, wide-rang­ing US sur­veil­lance around the globe, in­clud­ing on China, came as a huge em­bar­rass­ment for the US gov­ern­ment.

Roy has been a critic of the US gov­ern­ment re­sponse to the Asian In­fra­struc­ture In­vest­ment Bank (AIIB) ini­ti­ated by China. “I think you want to avoid sit­u­a­tions that ini­tia­tives by one coun­try seem to be op­posed by the other coun­try in a knee­jerk-re­ac­tion type of way,” he said.

The United States had tried to per­suade coun­tries such as South Korea, Aus­tralia and the United King­dom not to join the AIIB, a warn­ing that was sur­pris­ingly snubbed by the US se­cu­rity al­lies.

Roy said it was best for China and the US to have some in­ter­ac­tions ei­ther be­fore or im­me­di­ately af­ter­ward to clar­ify the im­pli­ca­tions for the two coun­tries.

“I think that is an area that needs to be ex­plored fur­ther,” said Roy, cit­ing the old days when the US would send top of­fi­cials to China to brief Chi­nese of­fi­cials on meet­ings be­tween US and then-Soviet lead­ers.

“So I think we can do bet­ter in these ar­eas, but I don’t think we are do­ing badly that I am pes­simistic go­ing into this sum­mit,” said Roy, also a Soviet spe­cial­ist who served in Moscow dur­ing the Cold War.

Writ­ing in the Huff­in­g­ton Post on Tues­day, Henry Rose­mont Jr, a Con­fu­cius scholar and a pro­fes­sor at St. Mary’s Col­lege of Mary­land, crit­i­cized what he called the “in­tem­per­ate” com­ments by US pres­i­den­tial can­di­dates, namely Scott Walker, Marco Ru­bio and Don­ald Trump, on Xi’s visit.

“(These com­ments) have pro­vided ev­i­dence that they are ill-suited to lead the US through the nu­mer­ous prob­lems and pit­falls con­fronting the shrink­ing global vil­lage the world is rapidly be­com­ing,” he wrote.

Sta­ple­ton Roy, for­mer US am­bas­sador to China

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