China, US, when one wants to replace the other

Both Chinese and US diplomatic sources warned one shouldn’t expect much from Chinese President Xi Jinping’s “productive” state visit to the United States last week. Given that there is more disagreement than agreement between the two countries, the visit has mostly been an opportunity for the US side to tell China what must be “changed” for the bilateral relations to grow stronger in the future. On Cybersecurity, on military developments in the Pacific, on trade and monetary policies, there seems to be growing divergence between the world’s two largest economies.

The US sees such issues as inacceptable obstacles on the road toward peaceful bilateral relations while China rather sees them as – reciprocal – business as usual between major powers having both common and opposite national interests to defend in the complex intertwined race for more leadership on the international scene. As the US is working more today to preserve its leadership, China is working to build its own. Although “highly complementary economically,” the two countries don’t share the same objectives on a global scale, hence growing and likely bilateral tension for the decades to come.