Joe Biden must build on the dialogue with Xi Jinping
The author is the former President of the World Bank and the author of the book “America in the World”
After the recent video conference between U.S. President Joe Biden and Chinese President Xi Jinping, Washington faced a dilemma: When Biden’s key officials announced that they had failed, how would they contact Beijing?
U.S. political opinions range from fear of China’s rise to warnings of Beijing’s internal weaknesses, but either way, the general consensus on both sides is to fight.
National Security Council strategists Jack Sullivan and Kurt Campbell sought to distance themselves from Clinton and Obama’s previous relations with China on the eve of the 2020 election. Rush Doshi, a China expert at the National Security Council, published a book this year promoting the theory of diplomatic predestination: China has formulated a decades-long global hegemony plan, and the United States has no prospect of cooperating with it.
However, there is a problem with this kind of thinking, which was highlighted by the recent statement about China issued by U.S. Trade Representative Katherine Tai. Dai’s conclusion is that neither trade negotiations nor law enforcement have worked, and Donald Trump’s failed deal has not been achieved. But she doesn’t know what the government should do next.
For ten months, the Biden team has postponed the issue of China’s policy by pointing out domestic efforts or taking measures to restore relations with allies. For example, the Aukus agreement with Australia and the United Kingdom promises deeper cooperation in defense technology and more Allied nuclear submarines in the Pacific.
The government has also complied with domestic politics. After the new team used rhetoric to show “resilience”, China responded. Substantial communication dries up; relationships are declining in a spiral.
When Biden recognized the danger of deepening the confrontation, he approached Xi Jinping by ordering food and suggested discussing the climate. Xi Jinping was postponed because he was facing a sensitive plenary meeting of the Central Committee on the road to his third term. More importantly, Xi Jinping sent a signal to Washington that Beijing hopes to take comprehensive measures on Sino-US relations.
The final Biden-Xi meeting did not reach a peace agreement or even a ceasefire. This is more like a pause. The Chinese emphasized their framework of principles, priorities, consensus points and Taiwan.
As far as Biden’s strategists are concerned, they can say what they don’t want — containment, the Cold War, and the Taiwan conflict — but they have been afraid to say what they expect from the relationship. They are just passive.
John Kerry, the US President’s special envoy for climate issues, opened up an exception to the non-contact policy: He recognized that the success of Biden’s climate policy depends on cooperation with China.
Biden must now decide whether to build on the dialogue with Xi Jinping. The United States and China should explore possible common interests-climate and carbon; recovery from the pandemic and future biosecurity; trade reciprocity and rules in the new world of industrial policy; international capital flows and resilience to inevitable shocks; development The growth of the Chinese economy includes debt restructuring; mutual deterrence and security, especially in the Indo-Pacific region; and the decoupling of technology and data management.
The president should supplement this agenda by building American military capabilities and talking about human rights, although the impact of his words will depend on America’s own example.
Biden’s domestic enemies will attack any move away from confrontation with China, but he will have to choose between indulging their fears or achieving results. Now is the time to start a debate on the goals of the United States and China—except for regime change.
The United States needs to recognize that the other party also has the right to vote. I suspect that the continuity of Trump-Biden’s policy has convinced Beijing that the United States cannot accept China’s rise??. Confrontation will become the new normal.
Xi Jinping believes that the East has risen while the West has declined. China will not wait for the United States to decouple, but will decouple according to its own will. Therefore, Xi Jinping is less and less interested in cooperative dialogue. His first task is to avoid misjudgments and mistakes that may lead to conflicts, especially when he is preparing for the important Chinese Communist Party Congress next year.
Because of China’s response, those who support Washington’s disengagement may get what they want. Biden will have to decide whether such an approach is in the best interests of the United States as a world leader and makes the United States safer.