When U.S. President Barack Obama meets Xi Jinping in Beijing in November he may want to steer clear of a line that has become a favorite of the Chinese president: “new model of great power relations.”
After using similar phrasing in discussions with Xi in September last year in St Petersburg, the words “great power” were absent when Obama met Xi in The Hague in March and again in a July speech, as they were when National Security Adviser Susan Rice visited Beijing this month.
By avoiding Xi’s slogan the U.S. is signaling its reluctance to accept a world that sees China increasing its influence while weakening that of the U.S. and its allies in Asia. Xi is using the lure of trade and investment alongside the firepower of a more confrontational military to make inroads after decades of U.S. preeminence in the Pacific, to meet his stated goal of China reclaiming great power status.
“The Americans are realizing that it doesn’t work for them to use that language because the Chinese too willingly take that as indicating that America is actually prepared to see a significant shift in the nature of their respective roles in Asia,” said Hugh White, a professor of strategic studies at the Australian National University in Canberra. “The Americans don’t buy that.”