Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Obama and Hu at the "G2" Summit

The two most powerful people in the world met yesterday.

From AFP:

LONDON (AFP) — US President Barack Obama and Chinese counterpart Hu Jintao agreed to fight protectionism and work to improve military ties at their first face-to-face meeting in London on Wednesday.

Obama also accepted "with pleasure" an invitation to go to China in the second half of the year, the White House said after the pair met ahead of the Group of 20 summit.

The leaders agreed to "strengthen ties at all levels" ranging from the economy to fighting terrorism, and would expand consultations on "non-proliferation and other international security topics," the White House said.

"The two sides agreed to resume the human rights dialogue as soon as possible," the statement said.

A recent US Defence Department report warning of China's growing military power angered Beijing. China cut off military exchanges last year over the planned US sale of weapons to Taiwan.

But the statement said: "Both sides share a commitment to military-to-military relations and will work for their continued improvement and development."

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As the Financial Times put forward, this week is all about the "G2," not the "G20:"

The meeting yesterday between Barack Obama and Hu Jintao, his Chinese counterpart, on the sidelines of the G20 summit had been described by some as "the G2" and marked the first encounter between the two men.

During the meeting, Mr Hu stressed China's commitment to strengthening macro-economic control and expanding domestic demand, the White House said. The two leaders agreed to work together to renew world economic growth, strengthen the financial system, and establish a "strategic and economic dialogue" group that would first meet in Washington later this year. The White House also announced that Mr Obama would visit China in the second half of the year.

But with China demonstrating that it now wants to play a much more decisive role in international economic affairs, their meeting may have also set the tone for the rest of the London summit.

While talk of an emerging "G2" ignores the increasingly multilateral basis of financial diplomacy, it does reflect the reality that, on an increasing range of international issues, little can happen without agreement between the US and China first.


"In my 16 years of covering China I have never seen the country approach an international forum in such a proactive way," says Dong Tao, economist at Credit Suisse.

"China has traditionally been passive on the international stage, being a listener rather than an opinion leader, but this time it's different. China wants to make sure [its] voice is being heard."

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The Chinese media seems to have given approval on the talks.

From Xinhua News:
BEIJING, April 1 (Xinhua) -- The summit between the two presidents of China and the United States, the largest developing country and developed country, is well timed and bears special significance as the world is bogged down in the worst economic crisis in decades, analysts say.

On the sidelines of the G20 summit in London, Chinese President Hu Jintao and his U.S. counterpart Barack Obama held their first meeting Wednesday, focusing on actions to fight the devastating global financial crisis.

Many observers believe the summit came at a right time when the Obama administration just took office for a short time and the China-U.S. relations are to embrace a new start.

Pei Minxin, an expert at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, said "it is a positive sign for China and the U.S. to have a better start under the Obama administration, compared with the same period under President Bill Clinton and George W. Bush."

"Overall, bilateral relations have been proceeding in a stable manner despite a few rows since President Obama was sworn in January," Pei said.

"Obviously, both sides have a strong will to push bilateral ties forward towards a healthier direction...and a strong indicator of it is the unexpected success of U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton's visit to China in February," he added.

As chief U.S. diplomat, Clinton initiated the judgement that "U.S.-china relationship is the world's most important of the 21stcentury."

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Agreed upon at the talks were an increase in scope when it comes to US/China meetings and summits.

From The Associated Press:
WASHINGTON (AP) — The Obama administration said Wednesday it will continue high-level talks with China started under the Bush administration, but will only hold one per year while expanding the scope beyond economics to foreign policy.

Announcing the change, Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said the first meeting in the new administration will take place this summer in Washington.

Former Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson began the high-level talks in 2006 during a time of growing tension over America's soaring trade deficit with China. American manufacturers charged that China was manipulating its currency value to gain trade advantages.

Paulson sought to use the talks to bring pressure on the Chinese to allow their currency to rise in value against the dollar, an effort that was only partially successful.

In the Bush administration, the discussions took place twice a year rotating between China and the U.S. The Obama administration has reduced the number to one and elevated the role the State Department will play in the discussions. Treasury and State now will share responsibilities for guiding the talks.

Administration officials said the changes were being made to broaden the discussions between the two nations. While the talks would only occur once a year, the administration plans to have that session take place only after extensive preparatory work by officials in both countries.

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Although yesterday's meeting was a big show and surely lacked any hard-hitting substance, I'm happy to see that it went well. There is a lot of pressure on both sides to push the other. US/China relations, like they always are, will probably be the touchiest they've been in some time during the financial crisis.

Being vested in both countries, I hope that the two leaders can step up and be great leaders in terms of their balancing of this delicate relationship.

I wonder if Xi'an will be on the list of cities that Obama visits in China later this year. It would be quite the trip to see Obama here in Xi'an. While Xi'an may not be the most important or strategic city for Obama to visit, it does have the Terracotta Warriors!!1!

Bill, Hillary, and Chelsea came to Xi'an in 1998. They visited the terracotta warriors, spent some time in a poor Shaanxi village, and spoke from atop the South Gate of Xi'an's impressive Ming Dynasty City Walls.

President Obama, Mark's China Blog officially welcomes you to Xi'an.

1 comment:

Taylor O said...

Xi'an is certainly more impressive than Evansville, Indiana where I saw the Chief.