U.S. National Security Advisor Susan Rice arrives in Beijing Sunday for several days of meetings with top officials. She also will lay the groundwork for an upcoming summit between Chinese President Xi Jinping and President Barack Obama in November.
In her first trip to China as National Security Advisor, Susan Rice will meet with Yang Jiechi, China’s top foreign policy advisor.
Her discussions are part of preparations for November’s Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) summit, when President Obama will meet with Chinese leaders in Beijing.
This week the White House said Rice will also underscore the U.S. commitment to building a productive relationship between the two countries.
Wang Dong, a Professor of International Relations at China’s Peking University, said the Beijing visit will provide an opportunity for Obama and Xi to build on their talks held in Sunnylands, California, in June of last year.
“I would say this is a very important opportunity for the two presidents to continue their conversation,” said Dong.
Obama and Xi are also likely to meet in the United Nations in New York in late September, if Xi decides to attend the U.N. General Assembly meetings. Rice’s Beijing visit will help smooth the way for meetings, as Sino-U.S. relations have been plagued by rising tensions over the last few months, the countries clashing on issues from cyber hacking to human rights and Beijing’s establishment of an Air Defense Identification Zone, or ADIZ, in the East China Sea.
“The controversy over China’s establishment of the ADIZ last November and also the tensions between China and Japan dispute over the Diaoyu islands, which involves the U.S. due to its treaty obligations,” said Dong, citing causes of tension in the relationship.
China’s territorial disputes with its Asian neighbors in the South China Seas and last month’s dangerous interception of a U.S. military plane by a Chinese fighter jet have also tested ties between the two countries.
Also on Rice’s agenda will be the political situation in Hong Kong, where citizens are demanding open and direct elections of the city’s chief executive. China has said eligible candidates for the position will be selected by a committee, and then voted on by the public. Democracy activists say this will ensure that only candidates acceptable to Beijing are deemed eligible, effectively ruling out pro-democracy candidates.
Dong said all of these issues are testing the boundaries of relations between the two countries.
“The conversation has to be continued and carried on at the highest levels of leaderships on both sides. Because the kinds of questions both presidents touch upon are actually fundamental questions on both sides for peace and stability in the region. Namely, ‘how are we going to redefine the relationship between a rising power and a dominant power?” said Dong.
China will host the APEC summit on November 10 and 11 in Beijing. The government leaders of the 21 APEC member countries will attend; China has also extended in invitations to the leaders of India and Mongolia.