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Reviews | Conflicting messages harm the reconstruction of human exchanges between the United States and China

Reviews |  Conflicting messages harm the reconstruction of human exchanges between the United States and China
Reviews |  Conflicting messages harm the reconstruction of human exchanges between the United States and China


Panda diplomacy is also back Washington National Zoo has just announced that giant pandas will arrive from China by the end of the year. Pandas may not have any strategic importance, but in a way they symbolizes the tenor of the US-China relationship. The more pandas there are in American zoos, the more the two sides seem to get along.

Yet there is also something deeply incongruous about recent Chinese diplomatic efforts.

Shortly after having wine and cheese pairings with French President Emmanuel Macron and his wife Brigitte in the PyreneesXi rolls out the red carpet for Russian President Vladimir Putin In Beijing. A few days later, the People's Liberation Army surrounded Taiwan in a series of punishment exerciseswarning Taiwan's new leader William Lai Ching-te that those who play with fire will get burned.


Beijing accuses Taiwanese William Lai of sending dangerous signals during his inauguration speech

Beijing accuses Taiwanese William Lai of sending dangerous signals during his inauguration speech

Even if there seems to be a real interest on China's part in rebuilding trade, there is also an incongruity there. Foreign students welcome back, but China continues to intimidate and punish Western officials, academics And journalists he doesn't agree with it.
Anecdotally, secondary questions and further interrogations In China, airports are not common but just frequent enough to cause concern. Despite all the efforts to win back America's business class, this population also faces unique risks.
China has gone through a series of nebulous difficulties data security rules which govern international data transfers, with severe (even criminal) sanctions. Foreign companies were raided. None of this is helped by the fact that the Chinese government has warned its citizens that foreigners can be spies, which aggravates societal vigilance with a if you see something, say something approach.

Some of these mixed messages may be a product of the decentralized nature of China's political system, what China scholars often call fragmented authoritarianism. We often assume that everything that happens in China depends on the will of Xi himself, but in reality, actors in local and central governments, as well as different ministries and agencies, compete to influence the political outcomes of 'a murky and confusing way.

This is particularly true in the area of ​​security, where local governments and police are responsible for maintaining stability and often have considerable leeway in how they deal with dissidents, protesters, civil society, foreigners and others they view as troublemakers.


The door to Sino-US relations will no longer be closed: Xi Jinping offers assurances to American companies

The door to Sino-US relations will no longer be closed: Xi Jinping offers assurances to American companies

At present, it appears that China's Foreign Ministry, the equivalent of the US State Department, is working to restore people-to-people ties and allay foreigners' concerns, but its security apparatus could derail these efforts. Sometimes when we see mixed messages, it's actually because different parts of the Chinese system are talking.

If Xi is serious about reengaging the Western world, he should take radical and significant steps that depart from the party's standard approach. There is no shortage of bold gestures. he can reopen the country to Western journalists, granting them visas and access to our most important news outlets.

Beijing should also work to quell anti-US sentiment among the population, lift sanctions on US officials and invite academics who have been formally or informally blacklisted. Instead of labeling the Taiwanese leader a shameful traitor, Beijing can resume regular diplomatic communications and invite Lai for talks, without the usual preconditions.

On the US side, the Biden administration needs to be more aware of its own mixed messages. To avoid attacks that he is soft on China, Biden has taken a decidedly gruff approach. U.S. diplomatic efforts appear focused on conveying grievances to the Chinese government and issuing stern warnings.


US President Biden defends calling Chinese leader Xi Jinping a dictator

US President Biden defends calling Chinese leader Xi Jinping a dictator

It is unclear what U.S. officials are proposing to China, if indeed it is following a different path than it appears to be. There appears to be no carrot to balance the stick, and Chinese officials must ask themselves what they can get out of this relationship. Aside from high-level diplomatic meetings, the Biden administration has done little to rebuild people-to-people exchanges with China, one of the few areas clearly in the interests of both sides.

In his speech in San Francisco last year, Xi emphasized familiar themes of peace, development and mutual prosperity, going much further than President Joe Biden in this regard. Xi concluded by noting: Our two peoples' ultimate wish for exchanges and cooperation will not change [ ] Let us galvanize the Chinese and American people into a powerful force to renew China-US friendship, advance China-US relations, and make even greater contributions to world peace and development!

These are wonderful words, but to be taken seriously they must be backed up by more meaningful actions.

Rory Truex is an associate professor of politics and international affairs at Princeton University. His research and teaching focus on Chinese politics




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