On June 21-23 this year, the
first U.S.-China Diplomatic and Security Dialogue (D&SD) was held in
Washington. This kind of a ‘dialogues’ between the two leading world powers at
the ministerial level began to be held (alternately in the territories of the
two partners) in the second half of the last decade, and since 2009, they have
been annual in nature.
All that has happened is
that the name of the already-established political platform, which is extremely
important in the emerging global game, has simply changed. The changes in the
notation reflect the features of the transformation of the platform, at the
center of which is the factor of the transformation of the People’s Republic of
China into the second most powerful world power. At the same time, China is
inevitably getting involved in a complex relationship with the recent single
global leader, United States. As soon as at the turn of the 1990s, US think
tanks formed the opinion that the main strategic opponent of the United States
in the coming century would be China, the idea of creating an interactive
platform for discussing the problems of strategic partnership with this
far-eastern giant was becoming increasingly urgent.
Over the past decade, the
volume of bilateral trade between the two countries has increased by an order
of magnitude. This process was accompanied by the emergence and further development
of serious problems. Therefore, the dialogue has turned into a “strategic and
Finally, at the last
bilateral summit held in April with incumbent US President Donald Trump in
Florida, the leaders of both countries came to the conclusion that the system
of bilateral relations and the situation in the world are extremely complex and
serious. Therefore, the so far single dialogue had to be divided into several
the above D&SD;
the Comprehensive Economic Dialogue;
the Law Enforcement and Cyber Strategic Dialogue;
the Social and People-to-People Dialogue.
The D&SD opened a series
of new “dialogues”. The theme for the series predetermined the composition of
the “teams” of the participants. The US was represented by Secretary of State
Rex W. Tillerson and Secretary of Defense James Mattis, while China by
Member of the State Council of the People’s Republic of China and
Foreign Policy Curator Yang Jiechi, as well as Member of the Central Military
Council (CIC), and Chief of Joint Staff Fang Fenghui.
It seems useful to review
briefly some recent acts in the formation of the general political background
in which the Washington meeting was held.
Among them, of course, is a
sharp aggravation in recent months of the situation on the Korean peninsula in
connection with the further development of the DPRK Nuclear Weapons Program.
And as far as the very problem of the “denuclearization” of the Korean peninsula
and the particularities of its solution are concerned, significant differences
exist between Washington and Beijing.
It was this problem that Acting Deputy
Secretary of State for East Asia and the Pacific Susan Thornton first addressed
at a press conference held on the eve of the D&SD.
Among other topics she
noted, the situation in South-East Asia, where the US-Chinese competition has
in recent years acquired the character of an open confrontation, attracted the
most attention. Once again, this rivalry apparently manifested itself during
the recent Shangri-La Dialogue that was held in Singapore.
The fact that the process of
finding any compromise in Southeast Asia will be extremely difficult is
evidenced by the latest signals about the unchanged position of the People’s
Republic of China regarding its territorial claims on the South China Sea. Just
on the day of the launch of the D&SD, it was announced that the Oceanographic
Institute of the Academy of Sciences of the People’s Republic of China was
launching a program for “digitizing data on islands and reefs” in the South
China Sea. And the political underpinning of this action is underlined in
Another alarming signal was
the cancellation of the planned visit to Vietnam (“due to operational reasons”)
of Fan Changlong, a general in the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) of the
People’s Republic of China and Vice Chairman of the Central Military Commission. Vietnam, we recall, is
today almost the main (of the “local”) opponent of the People’s Republic of
China in Southeast Asia, and its foreign policy rings of noticeable pro-US
As we have repeatedly
noted, both main subregions in which the US-China political competition is
unfolding (the Korean Peninsula and Southeast Asia) are geographically
connected by Taiwan, the struggle for influence on which is not so obvious, but
in fact, no less significant.
Recognizing in words the
concept critically important for the People’s Republic of China about “one
China”, Washington in practice operates in accordance with its own law,
effectively excluding the possibility for Beijing to use its forces to solve
the “Taiwan Problem”. In March, the same Thornton confirmed this position of
the US and most recently, Defense Minister James Mattis, also reiterated this
during the Shangri-La Dialogue. At the above-mentioned press conference, Mr.
Thornton pointed to the inclusion of the “Taiwan Problem” in the agenda of the
At the conclusion of this
“dialogue”, a meeting of the members of the Chinese delegation with President
Donald Trump took place, during which Yang said China was ready to “coordinate with the US”
efforts to “denuclearize” the Korean peninsula. The terms used here are
noteworthy, as the Chinese guest pointed to the Korean peninsula as a whole as
the object of “denuclearization”, and not only the DPRK, as Washington does.
Donald Trump’s assessment of
the efforts of the leadership of the People’s Republic of China to solve the
problem of the North Korean Nuclear Missile Program is also noteworthy. The
meaning of his speech on the day of the beginning of work of the D&SD boiled
down to the passage that “China is trying, but is not appearing to be working
in its full capacity”.
Commenting on the results of
the first U.S.-China Diplomatic and Security Dialogue, the state news agency of
the People’s Republic of China, Xinhua, identifies three points.
First, an agreement was
reached to hold bilateral negotiations more frequently, including at the
highest level. In particular, meetings between Xi Jinping with D. Trump have
already been scheduled to take place both at the forthcoming G-20 summit, and
during the official visit of the US President to the People’s Republic of
China, which is in turn scheduled for the end of 2017.
Secondly, it was stated that
it was necessary to develop “constructive, pragmatic and effective” cooperation
between the two countries through their respective military departments.
Thirdly, both sides agreed
to “coordinate” their efforts on the issue of nuclear weapons on the Korean
Peninsula, meaning the “full implementation” of the relevant resolutions of the
UN Security Council.
We, in turn, allow ourselves
to note that, apparently, during the first US-Chinese D&SD, they managed to
reach certain agreements regarding the problems of a momentary and tactical
plan, which is another aggravation of the situation on the Korean peninsula.
However, in the context of
the overall complexity of the global game (including its main component, which
is the US-China relationship), the prospect of any deep coordination of the
positions of both major players even on this particular issue is questionable.
In this regard, it is
important to note the invisible presence at the negotiating table in Washington
of other important world players like Russia, Japan, Germany (EU) and India.
This, undoubtedly, limits the freedom of resolution of both direct negotiators.
In this, by the way, the
above-mentioned sharp complication of the current stage of the global political
game in many respects resembles the period of the (“bipolar”) Cold War.
In particular, during the
Washington talks, prospects for the development of relations between the
People’s Republic of China and the EU “in the Trump era” were discussed in the
Chinese Global Times. The New Eastern Outlook has repeatedly noted the growing
importance for the People’s Republic of China to develop relations with a
conditional “Europe” and the formation in this regard of one of the global
strategic triangles comprising of the US, China, EU.
The very fact that the role
of the above-mentioned “other player” is increasing makes a ghostly prospect of
realizing (appearing a few years ago) the concept of the formation of a
bilateral US-Chinese construct for global governance. However, it seems
extremely doubtful that such ideas in general are today on the agenda of the
relations between these two leading world powers.
The question of how
significant the presence of one of these “other players” at the global gaming
table is will be sufficiently answered by the results of the weekly trip to the
US of Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, which began immediately after the
completion of the US-Chinese D&SD.