Chinese and U.S. officials tried to minimize tensions between the nations over issues from cybersecurity to maritime disputes in Asia as two days of talks began in Beijing.
“Let me emphasize to you today: the U.S. does not seek to contain China,” Secretary of State John Kerry said at the opening of the sixth U.S.-China Strategic and Economic Dialogue. Kerry said he’d already made that point to Chinese State CouncilorYang Jiechi over dinner last night.
China canceled cybersecurity talks due this week after the May indictments in the U.S. of five Chinese military officers accused of the computer theft of trade secrets. China is concerned that the Obama administration’s foreign policy rebalancing, or “pivot” to Asia, is aimed at thwarting China’s growing influence in the region.
“China saw a strengthening of the U.S.-Japanese alliance in the past few months and was deeply upset about the formal indictment of five military officers over cyber-espionage,” said Sun Zhe, director of the Research Center for China-U.S. Relations at Beijing’s Tsinghua University. “There have been no obvious bright spots in cooperation between the world’s No. 1 and No. 2 economies, which both sides find unacceptable.”
A conflict between China and the U.S. would be “a disaster,” President Xi Jinping said at the Diaoyutai guest house. “As long as we uphold mutual respect, maintain strategic patience and remain unperturbed by individual incidents and comments, we’ll be able to keep relations on a firm footing despite ups and downs that may come our way.”
The Chinese government is increasingly concerned about what it views as the Obama administration’s support for the Philippines, Japan and Vietnam in their maritime disputes with China. China’s deployment of an oil rig off the Vietnamese coast has added to tensions.
“It is not lost on any of us that throughout history there has been a pattern of strategic rivalry between rising and established powers,” Kerry said. “But I will say to you today that President Obama nor any of us who have come here to represent our country believe that that kind of rivalry is inevitable. It’s not inevitable. It is a choice.”