Complex turns for President Xi along China’s diplomatic path

By Kelly Olsen ,AFP

BEIJING — In a flurry of diplomacy, Chinese President Xi Jinping has agreed environmental targets with the U.S., held a first formal summit with Japan and pledged friendship with Vladimir Putin, even as the Russian leader is ostracized by Western countries. Two years since becoming head of the ruling Communist Party, Xi, an establishment scion of the country’s post-1949 elite, has moved from offering his own country a ��Chinese dream�� to an ��Asia-Pacific dream�� for the region, with China at its center. The expansion symbolizes the way the world’s second-largest economy is seeking a greater global diplomatic role fitting to its commercial heft �X as other rising powers, such as the United States, have before it. But as it further engages with the world, analysts say China will have to perform ever more complicated balancing acts to meet its international responsibilities and domestic goals. Jia Qingguo, professor of international relations at Peking University, said Beijing is still trying to establish what its interests are and strike the right balance between them, given that they vary depending on its own complex and competing identities. ��As a developing country we want to have the right to development on the climate change issue,�� he said. ��But at the same time, as a developed country we want to cut emissions to reduce the problem of PM 2.5,�� he added, referring to tiny particulates which have become an emblem of the country’s pollution crisis. ��China has to take up certain responsibilities,�� he said. ��It increasingly finds it difficult to take a free ride,�� stressing that if the U.S. ignored its global responsibilities, the international system would ��collapse.�� Chinese state media have lauded Xi, but the Communist leader’s interactions with other heads of state, at a series of summits in recent weeks, tell a more nuanced story of the challenges China faces. Under Xi, Beijing has been increasingly assertive in pursuing territorial claims against Tokyo in the East China Sea and other neighbors in the South China Sea.

Xi’s awkward meeting with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe at the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) summit last week followed a narrowly crafted agreement which both sides could spin as a victory on their own terms, and was marked by barely concealed mutual distaste, evident from images of the two leaders shaking hands.