As the US and China prepare for President Xi Jinping’s first state visit to the United States, the world awaits the two leaders’ answers to long-standing issues in the bilateral relationship. In particular, there is great anticipation surrounding China’s explanations of its basic attitude toward global order. While Xi will offer carefully crafted statements and proposals to reassure the US of China’s benign intentions, he must square them with muscle-flexing, vigorous new regional initiatives, and assertiveness on multiple fronts. Xi must explain China’s endgame.
The most direct answer thus far is that China wants more. When pressed for details, Chinese desire three things: more influence, more respect, and more space. Throughout a summer of meetings in Beijing, experts used a common analogy to explain Chinese behavior: China has grown from a child to an adult and therefore, it needs new clothes because old ones no longer fit. In other words, as China’s economic, political, and military power grows, China “deserves” more space in the region. In this sense, the revisionist nature of China’s policy course is conspicuous.
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