The Xi-Biden meeting, assessed by Chinese experts
It’s been more than 10 days since the leaders of China and the United States chatted via video link on a host of terribly important issues, and because of the difficulty to hold across-the-border academic discussions, your host thought it might be helpful to compile the takes of mainstream Chinese experts on the meeting.
Zhu Feng, Acting Director, School of International Relations, Nanjing University
While Zhu applauds the meeting, he describes the Sino-U.S. relationship as that of one between a rising power and a dominant power. He says “It is unrealistic to expect fundamental changes in U.S.-China relations through just one head of state meeting. "
It is unrealistic to expect fundamental changes in U.S.-China relations through just one head of state meeting. The U.S.-China relationship has become the most systemically transformative relationship between a "dominant power" and a "rising power" in the history of the world and is the most important and complex bilateral relationship for world peace, stability, and prosperity. But the key test is whether China and the U.S. can truly "walk in the same direction".
It remains a major test for both governments to implement the consensus of the heads of state meeting and to start transactional consultations in relevant areas as soon as possible, so that China-US cooperation and disagreement management can be discussed and carried on, and that the talks can produce results and a more promising and brighter future.
Wang Fan, Vice President, China Foreign Affairs University
Wang was willing to entertain the idea that should mutual cooperation benefits the two sides unevenly, there could be discussions to solve the issue, but stresses that both sides should still adhere to the win-win principle.
Historically, the U.S.-China relationship has indeed been a win-win. If the benefits of win-win are not equal, both sides can carry out discussions but must adhere to the principle of win-win, because only win-win can achieve mutual profit for both sides. To aim to be the single winner will produce no winners. Although differences cannot be completely eliminated, both sides need to reduce costly misunderstandings.
Da Wei, Deputy Director, Strategic and Security Research Center, Tsinghua University
Da addresses the U.S. tactic of rallying its allies against China, saying there could possibly be achievements by Washington on this front, and China needs to watch its step.
The comment is remarkable in that it hints at the risks of deteriorating relationships between China and countries such as Australia. If China wants to focus its competition with the United States, antagonizing others doesn’t help.
At present, the U.S. alliance strategy has indeed undergone a major shift, that is, the military-based alliance system formed during the Cold War is gradually becoming a more comprehensive (including economic and social issues) yet looser alliance system. In this system, many of what the U.S. considers "allies" may not be treaty allies in the usual sense, such as India. The success of the U.S. alliance strategy also needs to be measured by specific criteria. If the U.S. tries to mobilize these countries to confront China and create a bloc that excludes China, it will be difficult because these countries have share interests with China; if the U.S. tries to increase cooperation with these countries on issues invloving China, and in the process of which obtaining additional options and insurances, it is possible to make greater progress.
At this stage of U.S. policy, China needs to pay attention to the relationship with the "intermediate countries" between China and the U.S., such as South Korea and Australia, because these countries have a very close relationship with China and do not want to choose sides between China and the U.S. If the U.S. forces these countries to choose sides now, it will be difficult for the U.S. to succeed. China also needs to be careful not to push these countries to the side of the US. Therefore, China should try to seek friendly cooperation with these countries.
Wu Xinbo, Director, U.S. Studies Center, Fudan University
Wu says the U.S. came to the meeting seeking guardrails but ironically demolished any existing guardrails on Taiwan by putting an emphasis on the TRA and six assurances.
There were once "guardrails," such as the three joint communiqués. But now the United States is increasingly marginalizing the three joint communiqués, taking out the Taiwan Relations Act and the Six Assurances to weaken the three joint communiqués. The other day, when Blinken talked about his policy toward Taiwan, he did not even mention the three joint communiqués, saying that the U.S. one-China policy is based on the Taiwan Relations Act.
In this way, the most important "guardrail" on the Taiwan issue is gone, and that is very dangerous.
Wang Huiyao, Director, Center for China and Globalization
Wang suggests that China, the United States, and Europe join hands in carving up the global infrastructure construction industry, which would of course achieve a win-win-win situation.
In the coming decades, trillions of dollars of infrastructure construction will be a huge "cake" for global economic development. In the face of huge capital and construction gap, China, the United States and Europe do not have sufficient financing and construction capacity, and compared with traditional infrastructure, the "new infrastructure" projects are more in the field of information technology and technological innovation, which means that the demand of market players, especially high-tech enterprises, will be higher. Therefore, financing the "new infrastructure" projects must rely on a diversified financing system, mobilizing private investment, and innovating financing methods. China, the United States and Europe have different advantages in terms of capital, technology, human resources, management experience and regulatory system in different fields, so China, the United States and Europe can strengthen the docking cooperation of infrastructure projects in the suitable fields instead of competing with each other.
Zhao Minghao, Senior Fellow, The Charhar Institute
Zhao calls out the dangerous moves by Washington on Taiwan, saying Taiwan is the next card up Washington’s sleeve after the trade war was proven ineffective. He says “The Biden administration has seemingly approached to the verge of strategic ambiguity“
The Taiwan issue was the focus of discussion at the Sino-U.S. leader meeting, and it is the most sensitive factor that could trigger a war between China and the United States. Some on the U.S. side have been speculating that the mainland will take military action against Taiwan by 2027, and see the ability to "defend Taiwan" as the "cutting edge" of the U.S.-China strategic battle. This has given the Chinese side the impression that, having failed to win the "trade war" with China, the U.S. has begun to play the "Taiwan card" more maliciously, even trying to completely interrupt China's peaceful rise through a war. The Biden administration seems to be on the verge of changing its "strategic ambiguity" on the Taiwan issue.
Wang Honggang Director, U.S. Studies Center, China Institute of Contemporary International Studies
Wang stresses China’s seriousness on the Taiwan issue and expresses the view that China believes the U.S. is gradually departing from the three communiques, thus weakening the foundation of the China-U.S. relationship. Wang outlines some of the features of future China-U.S. interaction over Taiwan.
China has repeatedly clarified its serious position on the Taiwan issue to the U.S. side to make it clear that if the U.S. side continues to play the "Taiwan card" and continues to manipulate the "new two-sided approach" or even the "new ambiguous policy," then the U.S. side will not be successful in seeking for “competition management“ with China. "The situation in the Taiwan Strait is likely to become a new strategic burden for the United States, and the United States may once again make a major strategic mistake in its foreign strategy.
The future interaction around the Taiwan Strait situation will likely include strategic declarations, diplomatic communication, military deterrence, economic relations reshaping, crisis management, and other means.
Sun Chenghao, Visiting Fellow, Strategic and Security Research Center, Tsinghua University
Sun optimistically assesses that the meeting has ushered in a new phase of “re-engagement” between China and the United States.
Under the directional steering of the US-China diplomacy, the US and China have entered a new phase of "re-engagement". Although the two countries have not yet agreed on the strategic framework and positioning of U.S.-China relations, the two sides are communicating more at the professional level out of a more pragmatic goal of engagement, and the exemplary role of economic and trade exchanges, climate governance and anti-epidemic cooperation continues to emerge.
Zhang Yunling, China Academy of Social Sciences;
Sun Zhiqiang, School of International Relations, Shandong University
The two scholars have faith in Biden to maintain a steady hand on China, despite domestic political forces that seek to sabotage the China-U.S. relationship.
However, we also need to see that Biden, a politician with a long history in government and extensive experience working with China, knows the risks and dangers of an all-out confrontation with China. Biden has repeatedly said that he does not seek confrontation or a new Cold War, but expects tough competition (stiff competition), vowing to compete and cooperate together, competing where competition is needed and cooperating when cooperation is necessary. Nevertheless, the reality of operation is not easy. Realistically, in an environment that positions China as a strategic adversary and engages in comprehensive strategic competition, genuine U.S. cooperation with China requires seeking common ground on major interests.
Jin Canrong, Professor, School of International Relations, Renmin University of China
Jin, one of the most famous IR experts in China thanks to his frequent TV appearances, says the meeting demonstrated the Biden White House’s urgency in seeking China’s help.
My hunch is that Biden has probably figured out by now that he's unlikely to be re-elected anyway, and it's a shame to come to the White House and not leave a legacy. Whether it's domestic or foreign affairs, or personal achievement, you need to work with China, and you can't do without China's help, so he took the initiative to hold this summit meeting.
Of course, there is another reason for Biden's initiative, which is that the Taiwan issue is now more tense. Biden has said in many places, the United States and China to compete, but to avoid conflict; to avoid major problems in Sino-US relations, he wants to engage in a "guardrail".
Huang Renwei, Fudan University
Huang invoked the On Protracted War, a classic theory formed by Mao Zedong during the war of resistance against Japanese aggression. In this theory, a protracted war is divided into three phases, strategic defense, strategic stalemate, and the strategic counter-offensive.
Huang believes that China and the United States are in the strategic stalemate phase, with a limited level of confrontation, due to restraints of U.S. domestic politics. Huang believes as the relative power between the two countries changes, so will the dynamic. Huang also predicts that in 30 years’ time, the two countries will enter a strategic stalemate with China at an advantage.
Huang Renwei said that although the strategic stalemate phase between China and the United States will be maintained for a longer period of time, it is foreseeable that the confrontation between China and the United States is limited. Because the U.S. do not have the ability and will to devote all its resources to the confrontation with China, thus limiting the scale of the confrontation. If the U.S. continues to intensify its efforts against China over a period of time, its expended resources and costs will overwhelm the U.S. itself, at which point the strategic stalemate will shift in China's favor. If the U.S. and China are locked in a long-term struggle, and the U.S. realizes that it will be difficult to change or defeat China, only then will it be possible to re-establish a balanced and cooperation-oriented U.S.-China relationship.
Huang Renwei also made predictions on several important time points when China's strength exceeds that of the United States. The first time point, China's total economic volume will exceed that of the United States in the next decade, which also means that the strategic competition between China and the United States will be the most intense and dangerous stage in the next 10 years; the second time point, China's comprehensive national power will catch up with the United States in the second decade. In the four indicators of economic resources, national defense resources, broad sense resource (soft power, international mobilization capacity) and human resources, except for population resources, China will fully surpass the United States in 2030; the third time point, China will catch up with the United States in major fields in the third decade. At this stage, a strategic stalemate between China and the United States will be formed in China's favor, with China catching up with the United States in most fields such as science and technology, military, and soft power, and possibly even surpassing the United States in some fields. At this point, the advantage of the strategic competition between China and the United States has shifted to the Chinese side, and the contrast of power between China and the United States has fundamentally changed. In order to preserve its vested interests and position, the United States will seek coexistence and co-governance with China in the international system.
This newsletter is compiled by Yang Liu