Hard diplomacy ahead despite China showing its softer side


BEIJING – From a military rules-of-the-road agreement with Washington to $20 billion in loans for Southeast Asia, Beijing has set aside the tensions of recent years to present a softer side to the world in the last week.

But proof of whether President Xi Jinping is serious about narrowing differences that have marked his first two years in office will depend on how China’s festering disputes are managed in the months ahead.

The possibilities for disagreement are many, from cyberspying to land reclamation in the disputed South China Sea and the deeply emotional issue for China of how Japan deals with next year’s 70th anniversary of the end of World War Two.

China set nerves on edge with its air defense zone over the East China Sea, by sending an oil rig deep into waters disputed with Vietnam and by unveiling advanced new weapons, including a prototype stealth fighter.

But in recent days, China has gone out of its way to set minds at ease as Xi hosted the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) summit.


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