Issue Brief on “US-China Diplomatic and Security Dialogue: At the Crossroads of Strategic Distrust”

Strategic Distrust has become a prominent feature and a major concern in Sino-US relations. Both sides have come to realise that engagement is a must to move forward. High-profile meetings are a reflection of this realisation. Each year, more than sixty government-to-government dialogues take place to improve the level of mutual understanding but they are not as effective as expected. These extensive activities have failed to produce trust. Both sides are clear that a long-term constructive partnership should be built but how should it be built is a question remains unanswered. With Beijing and Washington clinging on to their old positions, the first round of the Diplomatic and Security Dialogue (DSD) exposes that the root causes of the Sino-US strategic distrust are still unaddressed. And that the declining superpower and the emerging superpower are still standing at the crossroads of the strategic distrust.

The US and Chinese senior officials met on June 21, to kick-start the DSD in Washington. Similar to the high-profile meetings held between the US and its most reliable partners in Asia-Pacific (Australia and Japan) the DSD was conducted on the formula of 2+2 (Defense and Foreign Minister) talks. Therefore, Secretary of State, Rex Tillerson, and Secretary of Defense, James Mattis, represented American side and State Councilor, Yang Jeichi, and Chief of China’s Central Military Commission Joint Staff Department, represented the Chinese side.

Read More