US-China challenge: Easing tensions despite differences

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In a tangled relationship like the US-China relationship, only an agreement that the talks were productive was a sign of progress.

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Nine months after Joe Biden’s presidency, both sides are finally trying to de-escalate tensions from the Trump administration to that date – though little US complaints about Chinese policies on trade, Taiwan and other issues remain.

There was no public bitterness on display at earlier meetings at a closed-door meeting in Zurich on Wednesday between senior Chinese foreign policy adviser Yang Jiechi and White House national security adviser Jake Sullivan.


After six hours of talks, the US unveiled an in-principle agreement for a virtual summit between Biden and Chinese leader Xi Jinping by the end of the year. The two have spoken on the phone twice since Biden took office in January but did not meet formally.

Major differences divide the two most powerful nations in the world, as they see their rightful place in the world order. Some differences over regional security and trade and technology may be irreversible, but successful negotiations can manage them and prevent any spillovers that impede cooperation in other areas, such as climate change.

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“I don’t think it’s a sign of change and somehow we’ll have a golden age, but maybe we’ve found that destination, or a destination in which the relationship won’t deepen,” said Drew Thompson, a former US defense official. who managed military-to-military relations with China, Taiwan and Mongolia.

Thompson, a visiting fellow at the National University of Singapore, said the meeting in Zurich went “remarkably well” compared to the March meeting in Alaska, which Yang and Sullivan attended and other US-China meetings over the past three years. took.

Zhao Keijin, a professor of international relations at Tsinghua University in Beijing, described the current direction as an effort to de-escalate tensions and said the Xi-Biden meeting could limit those efforts.

“Compared to the strained relationship during the Trump administration, the current relationship is moving towards mitigation,” he said. “As far as this goes, we’ll wait and see.”

A thorn in the relationship was removed two weeks ago when US prosecutors reached a deal with a Chinese telecommunications executive that would end lengthy extradition proceedings in Canada and allow him to return to China.

Shortly after, two Canadians held by China for more than two years were released, and two Americans who had been barred from leaving China were allowed to return to the United States.

And earlier this week, Chinese state media highlighted comments from Biden’s top trade official, Catherine Tai, that she plans to hold frank talks with her Chinese counterparts to resolve the tariff war. The US administration, however, has not said whether it will accept Chinese demands to roll back tariffs, which were imposed under former President Donald Trump.

There are no signs of any easing of regional security, where China’s regional and strategic ambitions in the western Pacific are retreating from the US military and its allies.

China flew a record number of military planes south of Taiwan over a four-day period last week, which the US described as risky and destabilizing. The flights came as the US and five other countries conducted joint naval maneuvers with three aircraft carriers northeast of Taiwan, which China described as provocation.

Biden is also under pressure from human rights activists and Republicans to maintain a firm stance on China, while his administration seeks cooperation on climate change and North Korea to end its nuclear weapons program.

Florida Republican and frequent critic US Sen. Marco Rubio tweeted on Wednesday that Biden is “dangerously confused” if he thinks he can achieve a climate deal by reducing the “great-power competition” with China.

Beijing residents were cautious about the future of relations, but some said the two sides were better off not talking. He attributed a hostile US stance to the state of relations, echoing the position of the Chinese government.

Hey Taikin said, “I don’t have a good influence of America. I think the country is domineering and aggressive.”


Associated Press video producer Olivia Zhang contributed to this report.

Credit: / China

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