As ties stabilize, US must address core issues
Published: Nov 19, 2023 08:17 PM
China-US Graphic: GT

China-US Graphic: GT

US President Joe Biden likes baseball, and that means he knows that when a batter gets his pitch - the ball can be hit a long way - he shouldn't miss. In the aftermath of his high-profile meeting with Chinese President Xi Jinping earlier this week, it is realistic to conclude that while Biden might not have hit a home run, he did make solid contact.

The world is likely to be the beneficiary.

The conversation between the two leaders in San Francisco on Wednesday local time had positive moments. In the coming months, Chinese and US military leaders will reestablish communication that had broken off after former speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi made her reckless visit to Taiwan region in August 2022. Enhanced communication between the two sides will reduce the potential for an accidental act from either side leading to a confrontation that could cripple peace throughout East Asia.

In addition, the two leaders agreed that China will do more to assist the US in fighting the opioid crisis.

China and the US picked up on another area - people-to-people exchanges - where rich cooperation between the two countries can continue. People-to-people exchanges, brought about through increasing direct flights between the two nations, expanding tourism options and making visa applications easier, will benefit educators, artists and many others who see improving US-China relations as vital for global security. More people-to-people contacts will allow for the consistently negative opinion about China in US mainstream media to be challenged by first-person positive accounts of private citizens.

US and Chinese officials should look to add to the recent high-profile meetings between them. In 2023 alone, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken, US Secretary of the Treasury Janet Yellen and special climate envoy John Kerry went to Beijing. And just last month Wang Yi, China's foreign minister, visited Washington. One can hope for continued meetings in 2024, even though the US presidential election will dominate domestic headlines and will put pressure on President Biden to remain tough with China.

There are at least three areas in which China's interests could be more positively addressed by American officials, and global audiences will look to see if Biden has the political will to look beyond scoring points and instead further relations between his country and China.

One of those areas being China's concerns about repeated US military activities in the South China Sea. Those worries will continue for as long as the US refuses to curtail such activities. The fears felt most prominently in East Asia that an inadvertent, unplanned or otherwise accidental move during such exercises could spark a war in the region remain palpable. Would the US consider scaling back such activities? Asian countries would especially like that.

A second area to be addressed by the US is China's insistence that the US stop arming Taiwan. Recognizing that the US political class continues to score political points by blasting China, it might be difficult for Biden to pull back such efforts. Keep in mind that since he became president, the US has sent more than $4 billion in arms to Taiwan. Any effort here, especially because it would be unexpected, would further bilateral relations.

Third, ending the tariffs put in place by former US president Donald Trump. By now, it is clear that US businesses, farmers and consumers suffer because of the tariffs. Biden certainly knows that, and he has so far refused to budge. 

China's statement in the aftermath of the Xi-Biden meeting left little doubt the country would not simply give in to US demands. The statement reads, "It [China] does not export its ideology, nor have a plan to surpass or unseat the United States. Likewise, the United States should not scheme to suppress and contain China." In other words, the two nations ought to - and must - share the global stage and promote win-win cooperation.

Fifty-one years ago, then US president Richard Nixon made a bold move by visiting China, a trip that opened numerous doors. China soon became part of the global family of nations. Eventually, reform and opening-up set up China to be a global economic powerhouse. Now is the time for Biden to do something bold. One can hope that he will. That would be a home run, a move that would alter the current state of global affairs.

The author is an associate professor at the Department of Communication and Organizational Leadership at Pennsylvania-based Robert Morris University. opinion@globaltimes.com.cn