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HomeWorld NewsMcManus: Odds in opposition to Biden, Xi stabilizing U.S.-China ties

McManus: Odds in opposition to Biden, Xi stabilizing U.S.-China ties

President Biden is scheduled to satisfy with Chinese language President Xi Jinping this week on the Indonesian island of Bali, their first in-person summit since Biden arrived within the White Home.

The stakes are all the time excessive at superpower summits, and this one isn’t any exception. After months of near-collisions over Taiwan, each governments seem to need to decrease the temperature. One other good signal: Earlier this month, Xi publicly admonished his ally Vladimir Putin to cease threatening Ukraine with Russian nuclear weapons.

However different grounds for optimism are few. U.S. officers are rigorously holding expectations low; their major purpose, one aide mentioned final week, is merely “to build a floor under the relationship.” Even that modest consequence isn’t assured.

“The U.S. side wants to demonstrate that [the two countries] are not locked in a downward spiral,” mentioned Evan Medeiros, a former China advisor to President Obama. “I think both sides are going to be able to say the right things to stabilize the relationship, but none of the underlying issues are going to be solved.”

U.S.-China summits as soon as tried to deal with areas the place the 2 sides may cooperate, equivalent to local weather change and North Korea. However these desires of collaboration are largely a reminiscence now: As China’s financial and navy energy has grown, the 2 international locations have more and more seen one another as threats.

Two particularly troublesome points stand in the way in which of progress.

One is acquainted — the standoff over Taiwan, the U.S.-backed island that China claims as a part of its nationwide territory. The opposite is newer: A U.S. ban on gross sales of superior expertise to Beijing has touched off a “semiconductor war.”

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America and China have lengthy been at loggerheads over Taiwan, however over the past 12 months, tensions have grown sharper. China has escalated its navy incursions within the waters and airspace across the island. Biden has responded by declaring that if Taiwan is attacked, the USA will defend it with navy drive — toughening a U.S. coverage that was as soon as ambiguous.

The standoff may simply flip extra harmful. Taiwan’s subsequent presidential election marketing campaign begins subsequent 12 months, and a few candidates are anticipated to name for a proper declaration of independence — a transfer that China has mentioned would cross an impermissible “red line.”

If Republicans take over within the U.S. Home of Representatives as anticipated, they’re more likely to push for harder pro-Taiwan insurance policies, together with elevated navy gross sales to the island. Holding this precarious standoff from sliding towards battle gained’t be simple.

The semiconductor battle is a brand new, extra intense model of an previous drawback — the U.S. grievance that China steals American expertise and makes use of it to modernize Chinese language navy {hardware}.

Final month, after years of largely ineffectual regulation, the Biden administration imposed sweeping new limits on the sale of superior semiconductors to China — a step aimed explicitly at a core element of Xi’s technique for dashing Beijing’s rise as a scientific, financial and navy competitor.

China has responded with indignant protests, calling the U.S. export controls the equal of an financial blockade. However it has not retaliated with any equal commerce measures; consultants suspect Xi doesn’t need to take any actions that will threat harming the sputtering Chinese language financial system.

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“My guess is that Xi will raise that issue at the summit,” mentioned Bonnie Glaser, a China knowledgeable on the German Marshall Fund, a U.S. suppose tank. “He’ll say that it’s evidence that the U.S. is pursuing a strategy of containment against China. … But I don’t think there’s any way forward on it. If anything, the administration wants to use the same tool in areas beyond semiconductors.”

U.S. officers say they nonetheless hope to restart talks with China on areas the place the 2 international locations would possibly be capable of cooperate, like meals safety within the growing world or local weather change.

At a extra primary stage, they hope to revive U.S. concepts for “confidence-building measures” together with a long-stalled proposal for a “hot line” communications hyperlink between the U.S. Pacific Command in Hawaii and China’s Japanese Command.

However even these modest steps don’t look attainable this week.

“The Chinese aren’t interested,” Glaser mentioned.

“Opening communications channels with China doesn’t really solve other problems,” Medeiros added. “It’s unlikely to shift the trajectory [of the relationship], which is toward intensified competition.”

Within the custom of superpower summits, Biden and Xi likely hope to declare their assembly a hit — if solely by the hard-to-measure normal of stabilizing U.S.-China relations.

Even when they do, the 2 international locations nonetheless face way more alternatives for battle than cooperation. The U.S.-China drawback is more likely to worsen earlier than it will get higher.

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