The big Sino-US fight is heading for a public relations patch-up.
After months of acrimony, the mood toward Washington is easing in Beijing ahead of a bilateral meeting next month.
Beijing is preparing the ground to appear more conciliatory when US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner arrive for the Sino-US strategic and economic dialogue on May 24-25.
“There will be PR (public relations) work to show they (both sides) have achieved a little more than they actually have,” Shi Yinhong, director of the Centre on American Studies at the Renmin University in Beijing, told the HT.
“There will be a lot of diplomatic words and friendly postures,” said Shi. But Beijing is wary of both Clinton, who criticised Chinese censorship and backed Google, and Geithner who came close to labelling China a currency manipulator.
The issues topping the dialogue agenda include China’s resistance to its currency reform and sanctions against Iran’s nuclear programme.
Chinese leaders have been ‘worried’ how this resistance affects the nation’s global image of a rising power. Recently, Beijing agreed to at least discuss sanctions against Iran. Tensions in the Korean peninsula will be a bigger part of the talks than disputes over Tibet, Taiwan and internet censorship.
This week, the state-run China Daily headlined the May dialogue as ‘key’ to salvage ties, but an analyst at an official think-tank put the PR in perspective. “Some think that bilateral relations are warming at the surface, but underneath, the gap has just begun to widen,” the newspaper quoted Yuan Peng, head of US studies at the China Institutes of Contemporary International Relations, as saying.
Beijing will be careful to avoid an impression of buckling under the US pressure but the trade-off in the patch-up exercise is likely to be a modest rise of the yuan before or after the dialogue.