Opinion: Does the US really want a Biden-Xi Apec summit and better relations with China?

Over the past few weeks, Beijing has been engaged in a whirlwind of high-level discussions with Washington and Moscow. After two days in Malta with US National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan, Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi flew to Russia for a four-day consultation with Russian Security Council head Nikolai Patrushev on strategic cooperation.

These diplomatic engagements are seen as China’s attempts to support international efforts to stabilise the Asia-Pacific region, as it continues discussions with important, influential countries.

Coming after the G20 and Brics (Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa) summits, the Wang-Sullivan meeting was seen as a positive development between two countries whose relations have experienced a downturn of historic proportions.

There are two notable inferences from Wang’s meeting with Sullivan. One is that, despite the intense tension, both China and the United States have realised how crucial it is to keep the lines of communication open. The second, rather disappointingly, is that there is no sign of a breakthrough any time soon on major points of contention.

The underlying theme pushing both countries into active diplomacy is obvious: the world is struggling amid turmoil and chaos, is trying to recover economically after the Covid-19 pandemic, and there is a widespread yearning for a more refined international order.

Wang and Sullivan reportedly discussed a range of topics, including the Asia-Pacific region, the Ukraine crisis, and the situation on the Korean peninsula. But it was Taiwan that reportedly dominated discussions.
US National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan (left) meets Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi (right) in Malta on September 18. Photo: Xinhua via AP
Some US media outlets have claimed the recent series of high-level talks between Chinese and US officials is focused on a possible meeting between President Xi Jinping and President Joe Biden at the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (Apec) forum summit in November.
But China does not seem to feel the US has taken significant steps to foster an atmosphere conducive to a productive encounter between their two leaders, and questions about the possibility of the meeting remain unanswered.
The Wang-Sullivan discussions were described as “candid” and “substantive” by both sides. Agreement prevailed on the imperative of upholding the consensus forged between Xi and Biden in Bali last year. The tone that came across was harmonious and both agreed to continue consultations, including on Asia-Pacific affairs, maritime matters and foreign policy – a move indicative of proactive diplomacy.

Additionally, they reportedly discussed artificial intelligence and sought to bolster personnel exchanges. The temperate language in the official statements reflects a deliberate approach towards a more “conciliatory” diplomatic communication.


‘Open lines of communication’: US Secretary of State meets Chinese Vice-President on UN sidelines

‘Open lines of communication’: US Secretary of State meets Chinese Vice-President on UN sidelines

The Wang-Sullivan talks came on the heels of several visits by senior cabinet members of the Biden administration to China. They included US Secretary of State Antony Blinken’s June trip, climate envoy John Kerry’s visit to Beijing in July, a substantial four-day trip by US Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen the same month, and US Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo’s late August visit.

The Wang-Sullivan dialogue acted as a consolidation of the outcomes stemming from these high-level interactions and has prompted much contemplation about the trajectory of Sino-US relations.

It is perplexing that, despite dispatching a succession of high-profile envoys to Beijing, the Biden administration continues to fan the flames of anti-China sentiment, stoking controversy. This persistent approach has raised doubts in Beijing about the White House’s genuine intentions, casting a shadow over the prospects for constructive engagement.

Why China has no illusions about the olive branch offered by the US

That is why the string of high-level interactions has yet to yield any substantial progress. The question is whether the US genuinely seeks a positive, tangible outcome.

Although there have been no clear signals regarding Xi’s attendance at the Apec summit, China probably sees little in the way of inviting conditions that would be conducive to a potential meeting, predominantly due to Washington’s actions. The onus rests squarely on the US, if it genuinely desires substantial and meaningful progress in its trade and diplomatic dealings with China, to exhibit a more conciliatory stance.
The Apec summit offers a prime opportunity for both leaders to recalibrate the narrative. It is of paramount importance for these two major nations to engage in dialogue, particularly amid an evolving global landscape, and to responsibly address their differences.

As the world’s two largest economies and leading military spenders, the US and China are destined to be rivals. Whether this growing competition proceeds rationally or falls into a destructive spiral that harms everyone depends on the choices made and political determination on both sides.

It is important for the US to recognise that not all Chinese economic initiatives or diplomatic efforts are harmful to its interests. China has a vital role to play in global challenges such as the Ukraine conflict, nuclear proliferation, climate change and debt relief, among others.

Navigating this competition while fostering a new era of productive collaboration with China necessitates transcending the one-dimensional thinking that automatically equates any Chinese gain as a loss for the US.

The United States stands at a pivotal moment in its relationship with China. The nature and trajectory of this bilateral connection will shape the foreign policy agendas of both nations for decades.

Dr Imran Khalid is a freelance contributor based in Karachi, Pakistan

Source link

Related Articles

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Back to top button