As the US and China prepare for annual bilateral talks, a number of contentious topics are up for discussion. Secretary of State John Kerry will travel with Treasury Secretary Jack Lew this week to Beijing, where they will take part in the sixth annual U.S.-China Strategic and Economic Dialogue.
In addition to economic ties, the leaders will discuss other topics, including intellectual property rights; China’s valuation of its currency, the yuan; cyberhacking; and maritime disputes in the South China Sea.
Al Jazeera America’s Thomas Drayton discussed the upcoming trip during the channel’s regular Sunday night segment The Week Ahead. Joining Drayton were Gordon Chang, author of “The Coming Collapse of China,” and Ann Lee, a professor of economics at New York University.
Chang stated that China is trying to exert its power over everyone else in the region. “China just believes that it has right to territory that is under the control of others,” he said. “This is from India in the south to South Korea in the north.
Lee disagreed, saying that territorial claims only recently became a big issue. She blamed the Obama administration’s Asia pivot, calling it the turning point in the situation. The pivot is a long-term policy shift, first announced in 2011, that involves reorienting U.S. military and diplomatic priorities away from Europe and the Middle East and toward East Asia.
The analysts also disagreed on whether the waters of the South China Sea are international territory or belong solely to China.
“Some of this is China believing that they have claims to these territories,” Lee said. “I don’t think that they’re necessarily doing this to provoke the U.S. They’re reacting to the U.S. pivot.”
Chang, however, said the White House’s policy shift was in direct response to Chinese provocation.
The two agreed that Chinese leaders feel the Asia pivot is directed at them, though the guests identified different reasons for it. Chang said other nations in the region want U.S. protection from China, while Lee said that there was no major tension in the region until the pivot was introduced.
“The countries in Southeast Asia were very integrated into China’s economy,” she explained. “China had very strong trade relations with South Korea and Japan, to the point where they were talking about developing an Asian currency. And the U.S. was very alarmed that they were being excluded from this very dynamic region and felt that they needed a reason to go back there and build up their military there.”
She added that once the U.S. withdrew its forces from the Middle East, the next logical place to move its troops was to Asia.
Chang strongly disagreed and stated that the U.S. never wanted to implement the pivot but was dragged into doing so only because of Chinese aggression.
As for Chinese-Russian relations, Lee said that the more the U.S. antagonizes Beijing, the more it will be pushed toward better relations with Moscow.
Both Chang and Lee said that they don’t believe anything constructive will come out of this week’s talks.
Chang said that the more the U.S. has tried to reach out to the Chinese, the more it has inflated China’s sense of self-importance, placing sole responsibility on Beijing for the lack of cooperation.
But Lee said finger pointing will not resolve any problems.
“I don’t see either side as seeing the other side as being sincere,” she said. “There’s a very deep lack of trust going on. Unless you step out of your own shoes and try to understand where the other side is coming from, then you’re obviously never going to improve the relationship.”