A ‘new model’ for US-China relations?

By Frank Ching

China’s leader Xi Jinping averted a confrontation during his visit to the United States by agreeing with Barack Obama that each country would refrain from conducting or supporting cyber attacks to steal intellectual property for commercial gain. China has never admitted to launching cyber attacks but Obama made it clear that Beijing was responsible by telling Xi in public: “such actions have got to stop.” The two countries agreed to set up a cyber dialogue where representatives would meet twice a year. The Americans would inform their Chinese counterparts of any cyber attacks and the Chinese side would look into the allegation. Very likely, China would accuse Americans of attacks too. Obama made it clear that words have to be followed by actions and, he said at a joint press conference, “we will be watching carefully.” So a confrontation may just have been delayed. But there was undisputed progress on the climate change issue. China announced that it would provide US$3.1 billion in climate finance support for developing countries. This follows a U.S. commitment to provide US$3 billion. The developed countries had previously agreed to provide US$100 billion to the developing world by 2020. China, itself a developing country, was not covered by that commitment. China also announced that it would launch a national carbon trading program by 2017. The fact that China and the U.S. — the world’s biggest polluters — are working together provides much needed momentum to the United Nations climate change conference in Paris in December, whose goal is a binding agreement for the world. The two countries also reached an agreement on air-to-air safety and crisis communications, significant in light of the intercept by Chinese fighter jets earlier this month of a U.S. reconnaissance aircraft, with the Pentagon saying that one Chinese jet passed within 150 meters of the RC-135 in the air over the Yellow Sea.