On the eve of Chinese President Hu Jintao’s first state visit to Washington, DC, Cheng Li joined Charlie Rose to talk about the expectations of the summit between the two countries, and China’s foreign policy agenda, particularly its relationship with the United States, which has suffered significant set-backs in the past year.
CHARLIE ROSE: Cheng Li, tell me how how they are going to… What kinds of meetings will be taking place, because as we speak, the presidents of the two countries with a small group of people are getting together for their first sort of informal meeting?
CHENG LI: Yes, only six people are having a dinner tonight and President Obama and President Hu Jintao, along with Secretary Clinton and also National Security Advisor Tom Donilon. On the Chinese side, besides President Hu, I assume that Vice Premier Wang Jishan and the State Councilor Dai Bingguo—these are the two people in charge of finance and foreign policy. So I think that it is a very important meeting—they can create a kind of atmosphere to improve their trust and also their respect for each other.
CHARLIE ROSE: What is it that you think the Chinese are asking themselves about America?
CHENG LI: Well, first, last year was a very bad year in terms of U.S.-China relations, despite the fact that the two top leaders have met each other seven times. There are widely spread perceptions in both countries that are not conducive for good relationship. In the United States, we worry about the China threat, whether it be economic threat, possible currency war or trade war, and also military threat. From the Chinese side, they think there is an American-led conspiracy to try to contain China, particularly over the North Korea issue. Between the two countries, particularly U.S. military exercise, and the three aircraft carriers exercising in the seas near China, made the Chinese public very uncomfortable. They thought that this is particularly targeting China. Chinese foreign policy, Chinese leaders, made some mistakes in foreign policy, alienating it from its neighboring countries, whether South Korea, Japan or Vietnam, or Indonesia, so the leaders are a little bit frustrated, so this meeting/summit is very, very important. If last year, the relationship was off-track, this time, they want to put it back on track.