Joe Biden’s prediction of an imminent “thaw” in US-China relations was shortly adopted on Sunday by a reminder of how a lot pressure nonetheless exists between Washington and Beijing.
Inside hours of the US president’s phrases on the finish of a G7 summit in Japan, China ordered a swath of its infrastructure firms to cease shopping for from US chipmaker Micron.
It underscored the large challenges to stabilising US-China relations on the finish of a summit in Hiroshima the place Biden and different leaders of the superior economies issued their harshest criticism of Beijing — whereas additionally acknowledging the necessity to co-operate with China.
The summit communique sparked an offended response from Beijing, which summoned Japan’s ambassador to China to protest.
Chinese language overseas coverage specialists stated the G7 assertion — which additionally confirmed the US and Japan’s success in persuading European international locations similar to Germany and France to take a stronger stance towards China — would additional complicate relations.
“The G7 communique factors the finger at China in each dimension,” stated Wu Xinbo, dean of the Institute of Worldwide Research at Fudan College in Shanghai. It could “make China even much less prepared to co-operate with the G7 to handle problems with their concern”, Wu added.
For months, Washington and Beijing have struggled to observe by on an settlement made between Biden and President Xi Jinping at a gathering in Indonesia in November to set a “ground” below the connection. The Chinese language spy balloon detected over the US this yr — which Biden referred to on Sunday as a “foolish balloon” — led Washington to cancel a go to to Beijing by secretary of state Antony Blinken.
US nationwide safety adviser Jake Sullivan insisted on Saturday that the G7 conclusions wouldn’t have an effect on efforts to reschedule Blinken’s journey or agree potential visits by Treasury secretary Janet Yellen and commerce secretary Gina Raimondo.
China specialists within the US additionally stated that whereas the G7’s criticism of China would go down badly in Beijing, it might not derail all efforts to restart high-level engagement.
Dennis Wilder, a former CIA China analyst and White Home official, stated he believed Xi would nonetheless proceed with “tactical efforts” to attempt to obtain what was mentioned with Biden. “It wants a secure worldwide surroundings during which the US and its allies don’t decouple their economies from China or take measures to maneuver Taiwan towards independence,” stated Wilder.
One potential focus is the economic system. “The Chinese language seem to wish to have interaction in an effort to stabilise US-China relations . . . partly as a result of issues concerning the economic system,” stated Bonnie Glaser, a China knowledgeable on the German Marshall Fund. However she cautioned that China was “cherry selecting” which officers it might meet.
An early take a look at will come this week when China’s commerce minister Wang Wentao is because of change into the primary senior Chinese language official to go to Washington since 2020. Wang is scheduled to satisfy US commerce consultant Katherine Tai at an Apec commerce assembly in Detroit after which journey to Washington to satisfy Raimondo.
In a constructive signal from China, its nationalist International Instances tabloid stated on the weekend that Wang’s conferences confirmed either side “recognised the significance of financial and commerce relations”.
One US official stated Wang’s go to was “small ‘m’ momentum as all of us discover our footing”.
Whereas Wang’s conferences within the US and the potential visits to China by Yellen and Raimondo may assist ease tensions over commerce, specialists stated the faultlines within the two international locations’ relations have been now rather more targeted on technology-related nationwide safety points, financial coercion and pressure over Taiwan.
One former US official warned that the newest pressure over Micron — which Beijing’s regulator stated posed safety dangers — would have severe ramifications for US-China relations.
“The Chinese language management ought to perceive that this motion will make it inconceivable to stabilise relations, and the try to kill Micron will result in a lot stronger and extra far-reaching decoupling actions from the Biden administration and the US Congress,” he stated.
Whereas the US and China wish to mend relations — even when they haven’t been capable of agree the phrases for top-level conferences and a potential name between Biden and Xi — some US and China specialists query if high-level engagement may have a lot impression on condition that Washington and Beijing seem dedicated to sustaining insurance policies that the opposite opposes.
Wu stated he didn’t have “excessive expectations” of a lot progress, saying the 2024 US presidential election and Biden’s candidacy meant politics would drive Washington’s agenda on China.
Zhao Hai, dean of the Nationwide Institute for International Technique on the Chinese language Academy of Social Sciences authorities think-tank, added there was a severe lack of belief. He pointed to the instance of the US focusing on China with export controls shortly after Biden and Xi met in Indonesia.
“Even when we proceed to speak, there’s no fruit, there are not any outcomes,” stated Zhao. “Now it’s our flip to wish to see outcomes.”