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Unprecedented Xi-Obama summit highlights unparalleled task of redefining inter-power ties

By Yang Qingchuan (Xinhua)

19:04, June 07, 2013

BEIJING, June 7 (Xinhua) -- Scheduled on June 7-8 in California with picturesque settings, the upcoming informal summit between Presidents Xi Jinping and Barack Obama will be an unprecedented event in several ways.

It is rare in history that a Chinese president holds talks with his U.S. counterpart less than three months after assuming office. At the same time, the informal arrangements and format of the meeting will also be an innovation for the chronicles of China-U.S. ties.

Given the complex relationship between Beijing and Washington, there will be a full plate of issues on the table during the first get-together of Xi and Obama since the latest leadership transitions in both countries.

As expected, there will be a long laundry list of bilateral, regional and global topics including trade, currency, debt, the Korean Peninsula, Syria and the global financial crisis.

Above all of the conventional business between the two countries, however, the leaders face a larger and unparalleled undertaking - how to build a new paradigm of relationship between two major powers.

Redefining inter-power relations will not be a facelift since it will set the rules of the game for China-U.S. ties in the new era. It will also hold the key to resolving whatever problems that might arise between the world's largest developing and developed nations.

The new concept of inter-power ties is still being developed but an agreed principle is that Beijing and Washington need to expand their converging interests and effectively manage disputes. That's with a proper understanding of each other's strategic intentions and a long-term and full-range view toward the overall relationship.

Take the issue of cybersecurity as an example.

Washington's groundless claims of China's "hacking" into its economic and military installations reflect its deep strategic mistrust of China. It also shows an ambition to dictate the rules of the road in cyberspace to serve America's own interests.

It is common sense that cyberspace is largely a no-owner land and IP addresses alone can't explain the origin and identity of hackers.

Therefore, any attempt to depict the ruleless cyber activities as traditional state vs. state competition only reflects an ambition to dominate the virtual sphere.

In fact, both China and the U.S. are victims of cyber crimes and as major players in the new domain, both have huge stakes in maintaining order in cyberspace.

Instead of pointing fingers at each other, China and the U.S. need to get down to real business and find effective ways to crack down on cyber crimes, manage cyber conflicts, and consult each other on ways to construct the global norms of cyberspace.

The two countries have established working-level mechanisms to address the issue, which is a step in the right direction but the effort is not yet enough.

Like all other issues, any dispute concerning cyberspace between the two countries could be resolved or controlled if both could build trust and avoid conflict with a better understanding of other each's intentions.

As a matter of fact, to foster a new-type inter-power relationship between China and the U.S., the two countries need to properly handle their relations in the Asia-Pacific, where their interests converge or collide most often.

The Korean Peninsula nuclear issue could be a converging point of their interests since both nations support denuclearization of the peninsula.

For years, Beijing has been making efforts to deescalate tensions and facilitate dialogue for resolving the issue. It is fair to say that without such endeavors, there would be much more uncertainty on the peninsula.

As a major party to the issue, Washington can't shy away from taking steps to improve its relations with Pyongyang and thus help dissolve the current crisis.

If China and the U.S. could expand consensus and coordinate closely on the issue, the return of peace and stability to the peninsula would stand a better chance.

Of course, no one expects the Xi-Obama talks to solve all the problems. However, the two-day summit could show the world a strong will and a proactive manner from both countries to build trust and manage disputes, thus taking a step further toward redefining the world's most important bilateral relationship for a better future.

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