What To Make Of The Xi–Obama Washington Summit?

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Context

By Dr Claude Rakisits

This was never going to be an easy meeting between the leaders of one of the oldest democracies and the world’s largest dictatorship. The two countries have an increasingly conflicted relationship: on the one hand, they are global partners, especially but not solely in the international economic sphere, but, on the other hand, their strategic rivalry, particularly in the Indo–Pacific region, is becoming worrisome. Accordingly, the meeting went as well as one could expect. But given the trajectory of the bilateral relationship this summit may well be the last one with a veneer of courtesy.

This meeting was, without any doubt, more important for Xi than Obama. This gave the Chinese president a public platform from which to be perceived back home as an equal (whether true or not) to the president of the sole superpower. It also gave Xi the opportunity to state publicly and forcefully—as he did—China’s position on key issues.

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