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Tillerson Speaks Chinese

2017-04-07 17:32:26       source:Foreign Affairs


"On March 18, U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson met with Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi in Beijing, delivering some sparse public remarks. Tillerson characterized the U.S.–Chinese relationship as a very positive one built on 'non-conflict, non-confrontation, mutual respect, and win-win cooperation.'

Although Tillerson's statement seemed innocuous, American pundits immediately criticized him for 'kowtowing' to China, because these three principles—mutual respect, win-win cooperation, and no conflict or confrontation—precisely match China’s proposed 'new model of great power relations.' The new model, outlined by President Xi Jinping at a June 2013 summit with former U.S. President Barack Obama, conveys Beijing's desire for U.S.–Chinese relations that would eschew the logic of zero-sum competition and build instead on a constructive spirit of peace and cooperation. Yet Tillerson's critics argued that by borrowing the Chinese diplomatic language wholesale, he seemed too deferential and accommodating toward China. Even Michael J. Green, who interpreted the visit charitably, characterized Tillerson’s remarks as 'a minor mistake' and advised the secretary to 'find his own words' in the future. "

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ZHANG Feng is a Fellow at the Australian National University’s Department of International Relations and an Adjunct Professor at the National Institute for South China Sea Studies in China.