US maneuvers to stabilize China ties: genuine diplomacy or crisis management?
Published: Nov 13, 2023 04:53 PM
Illustration: Xia Qing/GT

Illustration: Xia Qing/GT

Chinese President Xi Jinping and US President Joe Biden will meet on the sidelines of the APEC Economic Leaders' Meeting in San Francisco, California. The meeting comes amid several high-profile visits between the two sides in recent weeks. At first glance, these encounters indicate that relations are headed in the right direction. However, a closer look at the behavior of the Biden administration calls into question the sincerity of the US side. 

On the one hand, the US has made efforts to increase its emphasis on cooperation with China. US President Joe Biden said during his meeting with Chinese foreign minister Wang Yi at the end of October that the two countries must work together to address global challenges. However, Xi's words to Biden that he hoped the US would match words with actions during their last meeting at the G20 summit in Bali have yet to be heeded.

The Biden administration has maintained the Trump-era trade war which has come at great cost to American businesses. Sanctions on China's tech sector also remain in full effect, with Biden enacting an export ban and an investment ban this past summer. Furthermore, China has been compelled to remind the US of its commitments to the one-China Principle under the three China-US joint communiqués. The Biden administration has continued to send arms and political support to "pro-independence" forces in Taiwan island, leading the BBC to declare that the US is "quietly arming Taiwan to the teeth" through the Foreign Military Finance (FMF) program - the same program the Biden administration has used to send arms to Ukraine in its proxy war there.

The US also finds itself mired in several geopolitical crises that threaten domestic and global stability. In Ukraine, the US has spent more than $100 billion provoking a dangerous conflict with Russia. US officials and Western media have reached consensus that the conflict in Ukraine is now a stalemate. US and NATO efforts to make a breakthrough against Russia vis-a-vis Ukraine's counteroffensive have failed. This has facilitated a reduction in funding for the conflict as domestic support for the proxy war wanes.

The US is also heavily invested in Israel's brutal war in Gaza where an estimated 15,000 Palestinians have been killed, including about 5,000 children. A worldwide demand has emerged for a ceasefire in hostilities. The Biden administration has opposed a ceasefire and has instead sent aircraft carriers to the Mediterranean plus additional funding and weapons to Israel. This has laid bare the US' ongoing aim to maintain and expand its hegemony in the Middle East. In doing so, the Biden administration faces grave risks to its legitimacy. Over 60 percent of US voters support a ceasefire in Gaza. Increased military involvement from the Biden administration risks damaging the US' global standing and worse, regional war.

Gaza and Ukraine are two major geopolitical crises which are ultimately a byproduct of imperial overreach as the American economic, political and military order, what many observers have called a modern-day empire, declines in both size and influence. Easing relations with China thus presents an opportunity for the US to ease pressure on itself. China and the world at large must exercise caution when the US engages in diplomacy without making any meaningful commitments to reverse counterproductive and aggressive policies that are responsible for bringing China-US relations to a low point in the first place.

China and the US' bilateral relationship is perhaps the world's most important relationship. The meeting between Xi and Biden at the APEC meeting marks a critical juncture for the future of global stability. Issues on the agenda such as the crisis in Gaza, Ukraine and bilateral issues relating to trade and cross-Straits relations hold broad significance. The quality of the China-US relationship can change the world for the better or for the worse. 

The meeting between Xi and Biden is another opportunity to set relations on the right course. Still, the intense geopolitical and domestic crises that plague the US will inevitably influence policy in Washington in the months leading up to the 2024 presidential election. The future has yet to be written, but until the US matches words with actions, it is likely that an intensification of the US' so-called "China containment" policy looms on the horizon.

The author is an independent journalist in the US and co-editor of Friends of Socialist China. opinion@globaltimes.com.cn