Managing “competition with China so that it does not turn into conflict,” this is what US President Joe Biden asked his senior diplomats during a reception at the White House a few days before US Secretary of State Anthony Blinken left for Beijing. Blinken’s main assignment is a two-day visit to China. Blinken will restore reliable lines of communication.
Washington and Beijing are on a collision course
A similar collision between a Chinese warship and a US military vessel in the Taiwan Strait two weeks ago showed just how quickly the situation could escalate.
The accident occurred in China. She was conducting joint exercises that she said were “legal” and “safe”. The United States criticized him as “dangerous and unprofessional”. Even more disturbing than a near collision between two naval vessels is the fact that the world’s largest superpowers communicate through the media rather than through hotlines. Beijing’s military still refuses to heed the Pentagon’s calls.
This increases the risk of potentially devastating misunderstandings. Shortly after the incident, US Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin told the annual Shangri-La Forum in Singapore that the US would “not face intimidation or coercion”. from China. At the same summit, his Chinese counterpart, Li Changfu, refused to meet him for a bilateral meeting on the sidelines of the summit, as expected of the major powers in the room.
Washington’s refusal to turn this matter into a diplomatic incident confirms its keenness to avoid a new escalation. “I think it will be a long and arduous process to re-establish communication channels with Beijing,” Noah Parkin, a China analyst and senior advisor to the Rhodium Group Research Institute, told DW. He expects Blinken’s visit to China to be part of a “delicate operation” without major results.
Strong exchange between China and the United States
The US State Department described the visit as a series of “strong” closed-door exchanges.
Blinken and Chinese Foreign Minister Chen Gang are expected to discuss issues ranging from support for Taiwan and China’s Russia over Ukraine to reports of a Chinese spy center in Cuba.
The White House Coordinator for Indo-Pacific Affairs, Kurt Campbell, believes that “both sides have an interest in maintaining consistent, clear, and open lines of communication” and says this is the ultimate goal of the visit. However, the two sides seem to have different opinions about the character of the upcoming talks.
“The Chinese have always viewed contacts, exchanges and summits as a favor to them,” Dean Cheng, a senior advisor at the US Institute of Peace, told DW.
The failure of the US to disclose its findings on the spy balloon led Blinken to postpone his planned first visit to February, which was widely seen as a concession from Washington that allowed the current visit to continue.
It also comes despite growing Chinese anger at Washington’s involvement in a region that Beijing considers its own backyard.
Chinese competition in Asia
The president of America Biden, a declared “nouvelle ère” cooperation in the Indian Ocean and Pacific L’année dernière, is so out of an economic cadre that comprenait more than one douzaine of Asian pay, who don’t have Japan, the Philippines or the Philippines South Korea.
Recently, the United States gained access to four more military bases in the Philippines alone. China regards this new dynamic in Washington’s Asian policy as a permanent provocation.
This will likely play a role when Blinken presses Chen Gang about Beijing’s support for Russia as expected of him.
The US remains concerned that China may supply weapons to Russia against Ukraine, but the White House says so far it has no evidence of actual deliveries.
Cheng said Beijing would likely ask why it should view arms shipments to Russia differently from arms supplies to Ukraine by the United States and its allies.
A senior US official described Blinken’s mission as a “really important series of engagements” that come “at a critical time” with President Biden’s visit to Beijing, which has not yet been formally discussed but is expected to take place later this year. . The hope is that such a summit can go a long way in stabilizing the standoff over Taiwan.
Nobody wants conflict
China analyst Parkin noted, “I don’t think anyone wants a conflict in the Taiwan Strait. But it is difficult to send the right messages, especially when Beijing sees everything that is happening in Taiwan as a provocation.”
Since the appearance of the Chinese spy balloon in February, members of the US Congress have increased their “tough on China” rhetoric. House Speaker Kevin McCarthy followed in the footsteps of his Democratic predecessor Nancy Pelosi when he met Taiwan’s President Tsai Ing-wen.
Barkin said that in the face of export controls on high-tech chips and other future technologies, the Chinese side should demand concessions from Washington, especially on the issue of technology controls. But given the current anti-China climate in Congress, he did not expect the United States to make “promises on this front.”
Despite the export ban, Barkin sees trade as the most promising source of stability as “the United States and its allies struggle to find the best way to deter conflict.”
The US technology export ban applied to China last October ranged from software to equipment used to produce advanced computer chips. Discovering “how dependent they are on Western software and hardware” came as a “shock” to Chinese leaders, Cheng said. China should seek assurances that the US will refrain from further export restrictions, with which the US is unlikely to comply.
Barkin noted that while Washington has adopted the European term “risk-free” to describe its quest to wean itself and its allies off the supply chain and product dependence on China, Beijing also has an interest in talking to the United States to reassure the world. investors. . The world’s two largest economies remain closely linked as their strategic interests and competition for global leadership increasingly pit them against each other.
When Blinken and Qin Gang sit face to face with their delegations, it will be a clash of fundamentally different political value systems – the world’s most powerful democracy and the world’s most powerful authoritarian regime.
Dozens of human rights organizations signed a letter ahead of the visit calling on Blinken to raise a long list of human rights concerns that range from what the US has officially recognized as the Uyghur genocide to freedom of the press.
While the US Secretary of State has said he upholds American values as the standard, the US climate envoy recently received praise from China and criticism at home for refusing to request comment, and China’s human rights record is not. “road”. In an interview in October, John Kerry said “weather should not be part of the bilateral differences” between the US and China.
It is expected that Beijing will try to develop more issues of common interest to be dealt with separately from the issue of human rights. Blinken faces no less than the challenge of reaffirming American positions while bridging a wide diplomatic divide. The stakes are high in what amounts to a geopolitical chess game.
Edited by: Shamil Shams