An upcoming Sino-US dialogue on security and economic affairs will likely be overshadowed by an imminent international ruling on territorial claims in the South China Sea, mainland analysts say.
US Secretary of State John Kerry, Treasury chief Jack Lew and other top officials will meet State Councillor Yang Jiechi and Vice-Premier Wang Yang in Beijing in June for the
US-China Strategic and Economic Dialogue (SED), where bilateral, regional and global issues of economic and strategic interest will be discussed.
But mainland analysts say the talks are likely to be eclipsed by the Permanent Court of Arbitration at The Hague’s ruling of a dispute between China and the Philippines in the South China Sea.
China to build up atoll in contested South China Sea, source says
The Philippines, which launched the legal action, wants the court to declare that China’s claims must comply with the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea.
The ruling, to come next month or in June, is expected to go against China. Beijing says the court does not have jurisdiction and the dispute should be settled bilaterally.
The talks in Beijing would have “great significance” at a time when the South China Sea was featuring prominently in Sino-US ties, said Jia Qingguo, associate dean at Peking University’s School of International Studies.
His view was shared by Shi Yinhong, director of Renmin University’s Centre for American Studies. Shi expected both sides to restate their positions on the regional dispute but not reach any consensus. “The ruling, if announced by that time, is likely to intensify the confrontation [between the two states]”, he said.
The US-China Bilateral Investment Treaty is also likely to be high on the agenda. With US President Barack Obama nearing the end of his term, little immediate progress was expected, Shi said.
The dialogue would continue to be a platform for the two powers to manage their differences, both analysts said.
The ruling, if announced by that time, is likely to intensify the [Sino-US] confrontation
Shi Yinhong, American studies expert
“But we should lower our expectations because there is a big question about whether Obama will be able to implement any of the agreements,” Jia said.
Why the US will gain nothing from seeking to contain China
Zhao Kejin, deputy director of Carnegie-Tsinghua Centre for Global Policy, said North Korea and the US-led Trans Pacific Partnership trade pact would also be discussed. “Even though it would be the Obama administration’s last SED, we should not underestimate it. Obama will be keen to [achieve] some milestone results … Whether there will be concrete results depends on … both sides.”
The US State Department also said Kerry would join Vice-Premier Liu Yandong (劉延東) for the 7th US-China Consultation on People-to-People Exchange.
Additional reporting by Liu Zhen