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US-China summit: low expectations and modest results




US President Joe Biden took the initiative for a virtual summit with China after concerns over escalating tensions between the two countries over Taiwan and China’s accelerating build-up of nuclear warheads. As Chinese President Xi Jinping has concentrated all power within himself, Biden felt it became necessary to discuss these concerns at the highest level.

Given Xi’s sensitivities to “mutual respect” (improved and equal status for China), the United States trying to change the Chinese political system and labeling the alliances led by the United States as “cold war thinking” , Biden told her that the United States “is not seeking to change China’s system, revitalizing its alliances is not anti-China, and it has no intention of having a conflict with China. . “

The most important item on the agenda was Taiwan. Biden stressed that while the United States was committed to the “one China” policy, it strongly opposed (China’s) unilateral efforts to change the status quo or undermine peace and stability in the Strait. Taiwan. Xi said China is “patient and sincerely seeks peaceful unification”; if Taiwan’s separatist forces provoked China or broke its red lines (seeking independence), China would take “drastic measures”.

Read also | Why is Taiwan crucial for both superpowers?

Another concern of the United States was the build-up of China’s nuclear arsenal, its testing of hypersonic missiles, advances in space and cybernetic technologies, and strategic risk management so that “competition does not degenerate into conflict.” China stressed that its nuclear arsenal was at a much lower level. Any formal discussion on this subject would be tied to US cooperation to resolve the Taiwan issue and “cease hostile actions.” The two leaders agreed to continue discussing this topic in an informal dialogue (channel two). This is positive given that China has never previously agreed to participate in the nuclear arms control talks.

As the summit approached, progress was made on climate change when the two countries issued a joint statement affirming their cooperation on reducing methane emissions, protecting forests, increasing the use of renewable energies, the acceleration of the low carbon transition and technological innovation. They agreed to ease restrictions on travel and journalists’ visas and continue discussions on regional challenges like the DPRK, Afghanistan and Iran, improving energy supplies, trade and others. questions in working groups.

As expected, the two leaders disagreed over human rights, Hong Kong, Xinjiang, Tibet and other issues, with the Chinese president saying they concerned territorial integrity and “fundamental interests” of China. China.

The summit produced only modest results, and no deal or breakthrough was expected anyway. Both parties are pleased with the conciliatory tone at the top and the mutual desire to prevent further deterioration of their relationship. There are significant differences between the two countries in their approach to the bilateral relationship. President Biden believes that while continuing to compete, the United States and China should manage their relations responsibly and avoid conflict.

President Xi believes the two countries should work together for “win-win cooperation” – meaning Washington should be more willing to take China’s interests into account. After the summit, Beijing lowered its opposition to “competition” and its Deputy Foreign Minister Xie Feng said that if cooperation was still China’s priority, the two countries could engage in competition in the economic field.

Chinese officials said Xi had the upper hand when President Biden launched the summit, and the meeting continued until midnight Washington time. Biden’s appeal to Xi as a major world leader was music to his ears. The Chinese could now say with some pride that the time for the United States to unilaterally define its ties with Beijing is over, and the two countries now have an “equal and fair dialogue.”

Will this summit lead to the establishment of lasting detente between the two countries? This is unlikely as the underlying issues between the two countries are yet to be resolved. Xi would continue his aggressive policy towards US allies and partners, and the US would expect the US to provide political and military support. This was clearly demonstrated last week when a Chinese Coast Guard vessel fired a water cannon at a Philippine boat delivering supplies to their sailors in the Spratly Islands, prompting a warning from the States- United that they would defend the Philippines in the event of a war.

Another example is the call for a diplomatic boycott of the Beijing Winter Olympics scheduled for February 2022 by the United States, the United Kingdom and other countries. Regarding Taiwan itself, the United States has announced that the second round of its dialogue on economic prosperity and partnership will begin from November 22. China called this a betrayal of Biden’s “commitments” and called on the US government to stop all official trade with Taiwan.

Many Chinese observers believe peace with Xi will be tactical at best, as he is determined to pursue his grand ambition of seeking world supremacy. The only way to contain Xi’s aggression is for the United States, its allies and partners to further strengthen their unity and push back their belligerent and hegemonic policies by supporting Taiwan and other affected states.

(The writer is a former ambassador)

Disclaimer: The opinions expressed above are those of the author. They do not necessarily reflect the views of DH.




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