22nd May 2023 – (Beijing) Following the recent G7 summit and Quad meeting, where the U.S. and other countries took a hardline stance against China, U.S. President Joe Biden took a softer tone, claiming that bilateral relations with China will begin to “thaw” soon. While this message was welcomed by some, Chinese experts remain cautious about whether the U.S. will actually follow through on its promises.
The U.S. has been ramping up its efforts to contain China and impose sanctions on Chinese officials and enterprises while pressuring its allies to adopt a similar stance. However, some of its allies, such as France and Germany, prefer to find opportunities in China’s development and oppose political, economic, and military confrontation with China. This has caused divergences within the Western bloc to become apparent.
Despite the U.S.’ lack of sincerity in its communications with China, coupled with its ill-intentioned attempts to contain China, it’s necessary for the two countries to keep communication channels open to keep some divergences under control, some experts said, who also believe that the necessary condition for easing bilateral relations is the U.S. government matching its words with its actions.
Biden’s message reflected the paradoxical mindset of the U.S. and some Western countries. On the one hand, Washington has been ramping up efforts to smear and distort China-related matters to keep Beijing under pressure for dialogue while maintaining pressure on its allies to adopt a similar stance. On the other hand, some of its allies are not willing to confront China politically, economically, or militarily, which has led the Biden administration to adjust some of its rhetoric on China.
Despite the potential for a thaw in relations with China, Chinese experts remain skeptical about whether the US will take concrete actions to create a positive atmosphere. They believe that any real improvement in China-U.S. relations depends on whether the US respects Beijing’s core interests and fulfils its commitments instead of merely saying one thing and doing another.
While Biden hinted at lifting U.S. sanctions on Chinese defence minister Li Shangfu, Mao Ning, spokesperson for the Chinese Foreign Ministry, questioned the sincerity and significance of communication between the two countries if the U.S. continues to suppress and contain China and impose sanctions on Chinese officials and enterprises.
Furthermore, experts warn that the potential thaw in relations may only be superficial, such as the resumption of high-level interactions between officials of the two sides, while Washington’s fundamental understanding and China policy show no change.
The U.S. and its allies have outlined a shared approach to “de-risk, not decouple” economic engagement with China, which means taking steps to diversify supply chains, resist economic coercion, and protect advanced technologies for national security. However, Lü Xiang, a research fellow at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, warns that apart from Japan, other allies will not be willing to see China-U.S. relations become so intense or confrontational.
Meanwhile, the Biden administration is facing an intensifying partisan struggle on the debt standoff and a looming recession inthe coming months, in addition to the Ukraine crisis that has become an unsustainable burden. This has led to the change in rhetoric, according to Lü.
Chinese Commerce Minister Wang Wentao is scheduled to meet with his US counterpart this week, and China’s top diplomat Wang Yi recently had a more than 10-hour talk with the U.S. National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan in Vienna on major topics including bilateral relations, the Taiwan question, the Asia-Pacific situation, and the Ukraine crisis.
While some experts believe that the resumption of high-level interactions is a positive sign, others warn that it may only be superficial and that the overall atmosphere between the two countries is still negative.
China has always developed its relations with the US following the principles of mutual respect, peaceful coexistence, and win-win cooperation as proposed by President Xi Jinping. The Chinese Foreign Ministry urges the U.S. to form a correct perception of China, stop interfering in China’s internal affairs, and work with China to bring China-U.S. relations back to the right track with concrete actions.
While the resumption of high-level interactions is a positive step, experts warn that it may only be superficial and that any real improvement in China-US relations depends on whether the U.S. respects Beijing’s core interests and fulfils its commitments. For now, the ball is in the US’ court to take concrete actions to create a favourable atmosphere for dialogue and communication with China.