The Future of US-China Relations Under Xi Jinping

Asia Society – New York


KEVIN RUDD: A core question that we seek to answer is, can China and the United States craft a common future together? Not one simply based on an adversarial relationship, with an inevitable trajectory towards crisis, conflict and even war. But a common future which sustains prosperity, which sustains civility and which sustains peace for the future. The conclusion is that, if we are realistic about the China-US relationship, there are a series of what we’d describe as practical differences between these countries which just won’t go away and, if we are being realist about it, we’ve got to acknowledge that they exist, name the ones that belong to that category and manage them so that none of them break out and, frankly, overwhelm and destroy the totality of the relationship. At the same time, the report argues that we need to be constructive about those areas of bilateral, regional and global cooperation where it is in both countries’ interests and there is a sufficient confluence of their values to, in fact, reach agreement. And finally, the report argues that, if you do enough of that constructive stuff, guess what happens over time? You start building up political capital, you start building up diplomatic ballast, you start building up sufficient strategic trust to start dealing with the first category of realist differences which you can’t handle by way of concrete resolution just now.

The dilemma for wider Asia is do we end up in an environment where we end up with what others have described as the ‘Tale of Two Asias’. That is, an economic Asia where all roads begin to lead to Beijing, and a security order which primarily has most if not all roads leading to Washington. What we must be concerned about therefore ultimately is the bifurcation of the region and the reason we need to be concerned about that – as soon as you start pulling people into different camps then you start to create the circumstances under which long-term crises and in fact conflict is more probable in occurring.

The report speaks at some length on the deficiencies in the existing regional economic and political and strategic architecture in East Asia. We don’t have a CSCE, we don’t have an OSCE, we don’t really have any pan-regional institution capable of dealing with the great questions of politics, economics and security. So how, therefore, can we as the Asia Society Policy Institute assist in that process? Well, using our own convening power to bring together the brightest and the best and hopefully the most influential across the countries of the region to refine up what the future set of architectural or institutional arrangements for wider Asia may look like. That’s where I think we, ASPI, can add value.