Biden’s ‘guardrails’ need true test
Published: Nov 17, 2021 10:04 PM
Illustration: Chen Xia/GT

Illustration: Chen Xia/GT

On the morning of November 16, Beijing time, Chinese President Xi Jinping and US President Joe Biden held a video meeting. The press briefings released by the two countries after the meeting showed a positive tone in general. 

Biden used a word in the meeting called "guardrails". The word is widely used in the media, even as a headline. Biden said, "It seems to me we need to establish some commonsense guardrails, to be clear and honest where we disagree, and work together where our interests intersect, especially on vital global issues like climate change."

The White House then explained that the "guardrails" were established to "manage the competition responsibly". Biden also talked about "competition" with China, calling it a "straightforward competition". 

What kind of competition should the US manage? Let's see what's going on in Washington these days.

On November 11, President Biden signed the Secure Equipment Act. The bill, which aims to prevent companies judged to be security threats to the US from obtaining new telecom equipment licenses, is seen as the latest restriction against Chinese communications and technology companies.

The US will continue a Trump-era ban on US investments by Chinese companies that are "owned or controlled by the Chinese military", Biden said several days ago.

On October 27, Republican Representative Claudia Tenney introduced a bill to the House Foreign Affairs Committee called the China Watcher Act to establish a "China Watcher Program" at the US Department of State.

On October 19, the US Senate Foreign Relations Committee passed the so-called South China Sea and East China Sea Sanctions Act 2021.

On October 15, a bipartisan group of the lawmakers introduced the Countering China Economic Coercion Act. The US' moves to limit Chinese tech giant Huawei's access to global chip supply lines continue to impact the Chinese company.

The sanctions against Huawei and other related Chinese companies, which started from May 2020, are being ratcheted up. US media outlets describe it as "rolling sanctions," which means adding or changing the list of Chinese companies and universities subject to sanctions according to the needs of the US government.

There are more than 300 anti-China bills introduced by the current Congress. Over 900 Chinese entities and individuals have been included in various unilateral sanctions lists. The issues involved include Northwest China's Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region, the South China Sea and the East China Sea, and countries involved are where Chinese investments go.

The above-mentioned acts are just part of Washington's so-called "competitive" measures. And, there are more frequent moves by the US in terms of politics and military in its bid to counter China.

China is not afraid of competition with the US. What China cannot accept is US hegemonic unilateralism. Washington has deployed warships and fighter jets at China's doorstep, and is trying to contain China's 5G technology rollout across the world and try to "decouple" from China's manufacturing. Now the White House said it needs "guardrails" to manage competition. Will the world be convinced that such guardrails can ensure that competition does not veer into conflict?

Such guardrails, if really installed for the relations between China and the US, would surely lead to other countries' taking sides under the political demand of the US government. It would result in serious disruption to the world's trade, supply and industrial chain, and the global economy. 

China is reluctant to use the word "competition" to position the relationship between the two countries. Why? Because the competition defined by the US is an unfair competition as it attempts to force others to accept the US' own interests and rules as international rules, and that is far from the healthy competition based on fair principles of international relations.

Describing China as "the most serious competitor" to the US, Biden has placed China on the opposite side of the US and its system, which will not leave enough space for China's development or to compete. 

In the name of the representative of its so-called international system, Washington constantly suppresses China's development and interferes in China's internal affairs. Now, everybody knows that the US government is ramping up efforts to hinder China's national reunification. 

In this virtual summit meeting, President Xi once again highlighted mutual respect, peaceful coexistence and win-win cooperation as the three principles in guiding development of China-US relations. 

Mutual respect is the foundation of bilateral relations. If the US continues to contain China as it did to its enemies during the Cold War, there will be no "straightforward competition" at all. In fact, the response it will receive from China will no longer be "respect".

Nevertheless, this China-US summit meeting is productive. However, the key to whether these results can be carried out depends on what approaches the US actually takes to "compete" with China. 

The author is a senior editor with People's Daily, and currently a senior fellow with the Chongyang Institute for Financial Studies at Renmin University of China. dinggang@globaltimes.com.cn. Follow him on Twitter @dinggangchina