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Obama Heads for US-China Informal Summit With High Hopes

The last time the presidents of China and the U.S. met in informal circumstances, it was for a barbecue lunch and a tour of George W. Bush’s ranch in Texas. That 2002 meeting, which marked the retirement of Jiang Zemin, lasted just four hours.

When Barack Obama sits down with China’s newly installed Xi Jinping at the Sunnylands country estate in California on Friday and Saturday, they will be aiming for a superpower retreat of an altogether different ambition.

Though the shirt sleeves will be carefully rolled up, to suggest a relaxed affair, expectations are building on both sides for a historic meeting that attempts nothing short of carving out a new world order.

Rather than the traditional pomp and circumstance of state visits, a handful of key advisers will gather among the eucalyptus trees for open-ended discussions on issues that affect not just the world’s two largest economies, but scores of other countries too.

Jeff Bader, who as National Security Council director for east Asia helped organize a dozen Chinese meetings in Obama’s first term, remembers stuffy affairs with barely room for everyone to sit. “This one will have small groups of five or six people from each side, rather than 20 or 30,” he says. “This is a new type of great power relationship. In the past, they always insisted on the pomp of a state visit as a mark of respect, but Xi is more confident than that.”

Washington hopes such confidence is tempered by a recognition of mutual weaknesses, pointing out that the Chinese economy is softening while the US recovers, and stressing shared anxiety over North Korea.

“The Chinese know that the relationship between rising powers and existing powers doesn’t always end happily, so they are seeking something more cooperative,” says Bader, who is now with the Brookings Institution think tank…

Read the rest of this story on the Guardian

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