China has always been especially sensitive when it comes to diplomatic protocol.
This is not only because diplomacy places great emphasis on formalities, but also because since the Opium Wars, China has had more than 170 years of what it feels is humiliation at foreign hands.
Therefore, the “casual” summit in which US President Barack Obama and his Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping (習近平) broke with formality and did not wear ties surprised many and won Xi praise for what they said was a strong expression of his self-confidence.
It was this self-confidence that allowed Xi to declare that “The vast Pacific Ocean has enough space for two large countries like the US and China.”
Also, when explaining Beijing’s ideas of governance, Xi stated that the “Chinese Dream” and the “American Dream” are the same dreams people share around the world. These comments led to Xi stealing some of Obama’s spotlight.
After the meeting, Xi said “China and the US must find a new path, one that is different from the inevitable confrontation and conflict between the major countries of the past,” adding that a new chapter in cooperation between China and the US in the Asia-Pacific region had been opened.
During the summit the idea emerged that a new type of big power relationship between the US and China would develop, in which they would jointly manage the Asia-Pacific region.
This would be ominous for Taiwan because China sees the Taiwan Strait as a core interest, and Taiwan will bear the brunt of the impact of this new kind of relationship.
It is a cause for concern that China will target Taiwan as the first part of the region to control.
However, though the summit did away with diplomatic formalities and Obama and Xi engaged in “earnest” dialogue for almost eight hours, they found little common ground, so little, in fact, that it is hard to guess what Xi’s idea of a new kind of relationship between the two great powers will look like.
China’s strong nationalism did not just start when Xi began talking about the “Chinese Dream.” China has been posturing as a “great power” ever since it hosted the Olympics in 2008, after which Beijing had frequent nationalistic conflicts with neighboring countries that became increasingly serious in 2010.
However, just as Chinese emotions heated, Hao Yufan (郝雨凡), dean of the Faculty of Social Sciences and Humanities at the University of Macau, published an article about China’s lack of a grand diplomatic strategy forcing it simply to react to a string of incidents.
The article sparked heated debate within Chinese academia on whether China had such a diplomatic strategy.
Much was made of China’s “peaceful rise” to power; its traditional anti-hegemonism and anti-alliance ideas; how it does not interfere with the internal affairs of other countries based on its own values; how it spurs the global economy with its strong economic growth; and why it constantly runs into trouble with other countries when it provides hundred of billions of yuan in foreign aid and tens of billions each year on debt-forgiveness to poorer countries.
Many people asked why China is not gaining more influence, why it is always bullied by the international community and why nobody is willing to stand up and speak for China when it suffers injustices.
It was said that China’s current status is far from what it was under former Chinese leaders Mao Zedong (毛澤東) and Deng Xiaoping ( 鄧小平) and that China is also still behind the US, which despite its sluggish economy is an arrogant, imperialist bully.