U.S. Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta’s visit to China appears to have resulted in a minor diplomatic thaw between the two countries. China’s leader-in-waiting, Xi Jinping, who earlier went AWOL during Hillary Clinton’s visit, re-emerged out of temporary obscurity to meet and chat with Panetta. As Voice of America reports, Panetta showed China’s military leadership and its cohort of up-and-coming officers some love:
“Our rebalance to the Asia-Pacific region is not an attempt to contain China. It is an attempt to engage China and expand its role in the Pacific. It is about creating a new model in the relationship of two Pacific powers. It is about renewing and revitalizing our role in a part of the world that is rapidly becoming more critical to our economic, diplomatic and security interests”
Diplomats and most officials in both countries want this relationship to work. Xi has already spoken about a desire for deeper military cooperation between the U.S. and China, and Panetta’s remarks convincingly addressed themes that China’s military cares deeply about. We’ll have to wait and see whether this is a superficial rapprochement or a true détente.