Joe Biden’s prediction of an imminent “thaw” in US-China relations was rapidly adopted on Sunday by a reminder of how a lot stress 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 indignant response from Beijing, which summoned Japan’s ambassador to China to protest.
Chinese language international coverage consultants mentioned the G7 assertion — which additionally confirmed the US and Japan’s success in persuading European international locations reminiscent of Germany and France to take a stronger stance in opposition to China — would additional complicate relations.
“The G7 communique factors the finger at China in each dimension,” mentioned Wu Xinbo, dean of the Institute of Worldwide Research at Fudan College in Shanghai. It might “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 comply with via on an settlement made between Biden and President Xi Jinping at a gathering in Indonesia in November to set a “flooring” beneath 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 attainable visits by Treasury secretary Janet Yellen and commerce secretary Gina Raimondo.
China consultants within the US additionally mentioned 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, mentioned he believed Xi would nonetheless proceed with “tactical efforts” to attempt to obtain what was mentioned with Biden. “It wants a secure worldwide setting during which the US and its allies don’t decouple their economies from China or take measures to maneuver Taiwan towards independence,” mentioned Wilder.
One potential focus is the financial system. “The Chinese language seem to need to interact in an effort to stabilise US-China relations . . . partly because of considerations concerning the financial system,” mentioned Bonnie Glaser, a China skilled on the German Marshall Fund. However she cautioned that China was “cherry choosing” 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 turn out to be 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 mentioned on the weekend that Wang’s conferences confirmed each side “recognised the significance of financial and commerce relations”.
One US official mentioned Wang’s go to was “small ‘m’ momentum as all of us discover our footing”.
Whereas Wang’s conferences within the US and the attainable visits to China by Yellen and Raimondo may assist ease tensions over commerce, consultants mentioned the faultlines within the two international locations’ relations had been now far more centered on technology-related nationwide safety points, financial coercion and stress over Taiwan.
One former US official warned that the most recent stress over Micron — which Beijing’s regulator mentioned 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 and kill Micron will result in a lot stronger and extra far-reaching decoupling actions from the Biden administration and the US Congress,” he mentioned.
Whereas the US and China need to mend relations — even when they haven’t been in a position to agree the phrases for top-level conferences and a attainable name between Biden and Xi — some US and China consultants query if high-level engagement can have a lot impression provided that Washington and Beijing seem dedicated to sustaining insurance policies that the opposite opposes.
Wu mentioned 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 concentrating on China with export controls shortly after Biden and Xi met in Indonesia.
“Even when we proceed to speak, there’s no fruit, there aren’t any outcomes,” mentioned Zhao. “Now it’s our flip to need to see outcomes.”