Many American presidents dream of recreating the success of Nixon's 1972 meeting with Chinese leaders. China's strength and assertiveness today make that impossible. President Obama would be better served by not raising hopes that personal diplomacy will lead to dramatic breakthroughs. He should speak frankly to the American people about growing tensions with Beijing. Washington should also reassure long-time friends in the region — Japan, South Korea and Taiwan for example — that Sino-American talks will not harm their interests. Because many of America's disputes with China are shared by other nations, multilateral diplomacy is a better option than informal bilateral summits.
Steven Phillips is a professor in the History Department at Towson University. His email is firstname.lastname@example.org.