The summit between Prime Minister Xi Jinping and President Barack Obama last Friday produced mixed results. Both sides reached an agreement on climate change and on cyberattacks, following the recent Chinese attacks against American businesses and government agencies, but made little progress on the maritime security issues in the South China Sea. In this Policy Alert, we examine commentary from China, Japan, India, and South Korea on Xi’s visit to the U.S.

CHINA

Chinese officials and media regarded the summit as highly successful, noting that Xi’s visit purportedly assuaged U.S. concerns regarding a rising China. 

  • Chinese President Xi Jinping described his visit to the United States as “fruitful,” calling on the U.S. and China to strengthen mutual trust. “I believe that as long as our two sides join hands and make unremitting efforts, we will continue to open up new phases for China-U.S. ties and better benefit peoples of the two countries and the world as a whole,” he noted.
  • “When China and the U.S join hands, the world benefits,” declared China Daily. “Xi’s visit was about mutual assurance and served that purpose well…the visit was nothing but a success – a big one from Beijing’s perspective.”
  • Yi Fan, an analyst with the Foreign Ministry of China pointed to one-on-ones held between Presidents Xi and Obama over the past few years as intimate environments for “unscripted talks between the leaders of the world’s two largest economies” that have boosted cooperation and mitigated tension.
  • China and the U.S. are in a better place to avoid “strategic miscalculation” as a result of the summit, posited one Global Times editorial.
  • Zhao Minghao, an adjunct fellow at the Chongyang Institute for Financial Studies at Renmin University of China, stated, “It’s clear that China has tremendous goodwill in developing relations with the US, which merits recognition. However, establishing stable and positive China-US relations requires the efforts of both countries. Obama has often said that the US welcomes a peaceful and prosperous rise of China. Beijing hopes Washington walks the talk.”

INDIA

Indian commentators discussed the implications of the U.S.-China summit for world order and Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s visit to America this week, and encouraged more openness to the United States.

  • “[T]he relationship between the two superpowers has entered an era of tensions,” emphasized Claude Smadja, President of Smadja & Smadja, a strategic advisory firm. “This is bound to be the case as China…will continue grow in stature and will have more international interests to defend in the period ahead. The challenge for [Washington]… is to find the right balance between accepting that the era of a US-dominated world order is coming to an end while promoting a new global institutional framework” that reflects the interests of both Western and rising powers.
  • “The unfolding dynamic between Washington and Beijing is similar to the one between America and the Soviet Union during the Cold War, when they confronted each other around the world but also carefully regulated their military competition,” posited C. Raja Mohan, distinguished fellow at the Observer Research Foundation, Delhi. The cyber security agreement reached at the summit “may well go down as the first arms-control agreement of the cyber era.” And Xi’s meeting with American businessmen in the West coast shows that China’s “cyber diplomacy is not limited to his engagement with Obama.”
  • Mohan added, “Delhi must come to terms with the fact that China and America compete and cooperate at the same time” and ask itself “If China, whose cyber philosophy is fundamentally different from that of the U.S., can cut deals with Washington and American businesses, why has India been so reluctant to seize the opportunities for a deeper digital partnership with the U.S.? Why does India, despite shared democratic values with America and the deep links between Bangalore and Silicon Valley, play second fiddle to China and Russia in global debates on cyber issues?”
  • The Indian Express shared a similar view in light of Modi’s visit to the U.S. this week. He “has to work harder to convince U.S. businessmen – whom he is meeting in large numbers in New York and California – that the NDA (National Democratic Alliance) can deliver on reforms to make it easier for foreigners to do business in India.”

JAPAN

Japanese newspapers remained at odds with their assessments of the summit’s outcome.

  • The Nikkei Shimbun posited that the summit demonstrated the “deep root” of the U.S.-China confrontation over maritime security, noting the absence of China’s reclamation activities in the South China Sea in the official statements. The newspaper called on Washington to strengthen its pressure against Beijing to promote its “responsible action.”
  • The Sankei Shimbun claimed that the summit showed China’s unwillingness to stop its provocative actions in its neighboring waters, emphasizing the need for further security cooperation between Washington and Tokyo to deter Beijing’s revisionism.
  • “It will be impossible for China to build what it calls a ‘new type of great power relations’ with the United States as long as it continues to challenge international order through self-justified conduct,” said the Yomiuri Shimbun, criticizing Beijing’s maritime assertiveness.
  • The Mainichi Shimbun argued that China must stop its revisionist actions over the maritime disputes in the East and South China Seas to avoid a confrontation with the U.S., but also warned against the too much emphasis of a “China threat” in Japan’s security debate and urged the Japanese government to double its efforts on dialogue with Beijing.
  • The Asahi Shimbun expressed a positive view on the U.S.-China agreement on cyber security, urging both governments to build on this effort to establish an international norm over the Internet governance.

SOUTH KOREA

Korean media emphasized the need for the U.S. and China to reconcile their differences and work together.

  • The Korea Times argued that the two superpowers must “work jointly on the establishment of a new world order with the goal of bringing the world back onto a stable, progressive and peaceful path.” In order to “pave the way for peaceful coexistence,” Washington needs to overcome its reluctance to “accept China on equal footing,” as in its opposition to other countries joining the China-led Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank, and Beijing must show that it is “no bully” by further cooperating with the U.S. and the world.
  • Oh Young-jin,chief editor for The Korea Times, urged the two superpowers to revisit the principles embedded in the 1972 Shanghai Communique, which restored the bilateral relations by admitting differences and finding common ground, such as respect for the sovereign and territorial integrity of all states, nonaggression against other states, noninterference in the internal affairs of other states, equality and mutual benefit, and, finally, peaceful coexistence.