Western leaders were well behaved at the APEC summit in Beijing. The usual hectoring on human rights was put aside as an air of cooperation characterized the proceedings which suggests a game change in the relations between the West and China.
There were conflicts under the surface of Beijing's APEC meeting, but China managed to dilute them and turn the focus to Asia-Pacific cooperation. The US and Russia didn't pick a fight, stakeholders in the South China Sea disputes practiced restraint, and even the icy Sino-Japanese relationship saw a breakthrough.
How could such differences occur? First, China has the determination and responsibility to hold successful international conferences. Second, it is powerful enough to exert an influence on all parties. It will not act as a stage for any of these countries play out their rivalries. Third, China is a powerful mediator.
In fact US President Obama trumpeted a spirit of cooperation and was happy to leave with an agreement with China to fight climate change.
An editorial in Global Times asserts that the idea of the US and China vying for regional hegemony is an outdated idea:
In this regard, US and Western media have particularly described this year's APEC meeting as a stage for China and the US to fight for regional dominance.
Their reasons are simple. First, this year's event is held in Beijing and China has the privilege to set the agenda. Second, China proposed the idea of a Free Trade Area of the Asia-Pacific. The China-led Asia Infrastructure Investment Bank has already been established. Both are considered to be in competition with the US-led Trans-Pacific Partnership and the Asian Development Bank, in which it has a huge influence.
The US always wants to lead the world, but it does not have the strength.
The US should revitalize itself and prevent its influence from waning. Otherwise it will feel even worse. But this is not connected to whether China competes for dominance with it.
However western leaders behaved quite differently in Brisbane, as they launched a coordinate attach against Vladimir Putin.
Putin "was snubbed at the airport, made to sit alone at dinner, shunted to the edge of the family photo and condemned by world leaders… it's no wonder President Putin was Russian to leave the G20 summit."
There was no air of cooperation to solve the crisis in Ukraine which suggests, as one observer put it, Obama wants a "frozen conflict" to function as wedge in the relations between Russia and Europe.
There is speculation that the US feels it now has Iran on its side and does not need Russia to solve problems in the Middle East and that Obama might be counting on an emergent "new type of relationship" with China that will prevent Beijing and Moscow forming an alliance against Washington which would effectively leave Russia out in the cold.
Western leaders are evidently frustrated with Putin's unwillingness to play along and their inability to solve the Ukraine "crisis," and so in Brisbane they resorted to what one erstwhile diplomat calls boorish behavior.
Remember when the US and the EU jockeyed for dominance in regime change in Ukraine and US representative Victoria Newland famously said "F--- the EU." Then as the situation deteriorated the US and the EU coalesced against Russia.
The West's attempt at regime change in Ukraine and the ensuing conflict has so far killed 4000 people. The diplomatic row in Brisbane will harden both sides which will result in the death of more Ukrainians.
The G20 summit in Brisbane has obviously run off the rails. One of its key themes was boosting growth and employment, but the public's attention has been caught by the rivalry between the West and Russia. Brisbane has become yet another stage for the US and its allies to counter Russian President Vladimir Putin.