US-China Challenge: Reducing Tensions Despite Differences – Community News
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US-China Challenge: Reducing Tensions Despite Differences

BEIJING: In a relationship as fraught as America’s and China’s, only an agreement that the talks were productive was a sign of progress.
Nine months into Joe Biden’s presidency, the two sides appear to be finally trying to ease tensions that predate the Trump administration — though US complaints about China’s trade policy, Taiwan and other issues have subsided little.
A closed-door meeting in Zurich on Wednesday between Chinese foreign policy adviser Yang Jiechi and White House national security adviser Jake Sullivan was not accompanied by the public acrimony seen at previous meetings.
After the six-hour talks, the US announced an agreement in principle for a virtual summit between Biden and Chinese leader Xi Jinping by the end of the year. The two have spoken by phone twice since Biden took office in January, but have not had a formal meeting.
Major differences divide what are in many ways the two most powerful nations in the world as they compete for what each sees as its rightful place in the world order. Some disagreements over regional security and trade and technology may be incompatible, but successful discussions could manage these and avoid any spillovers that hinder cooperation in other areas, such as climate change.
“I don’t think this marks the turnaround and somehow we’re going to have a golden age, but maybe we’ve found the floor, or a floor, where the relationships don’t sink deeper,” said Drew Thompson, a former US defense official who managed military-military relations with China, Taiwan and Mongolia.
Thompson, a visiting fellow at the National University of Singapore, said the Zurich meeting went “spectacularly well” compared to a March meeting in Alaska that Yang and Sullivan attended and other US-China meetings over the past three years. .
Zhao Kejin, a professor of international relations at Tsinghua University in Beijing, described the current direction as an effort to ease tensions and said a meeting with Xi-Biden could curb those efforts.
“Compared to the tense relations during the Trump administration, the current relationship is moving towards easing,” he said. “How far it will go, we’ll have to wait and see.”
A thorn in the relationship was allayed two weeks ago when US prosecutors reached a deal with a Chinese telecom manager that ended lengthy extradition proceedings in Canada and allowed her to return to China.
Shortly after, two Canadians held by China for more than two years were released and two Americans unable to leave China were allowed to return to the United States.
And earlier this week, Chinese state media emphasized comments from Biden’s top trade official, Katherine Tai, that she is planning candid talks with her Chinese counterparts about resolving a tariff war. However, the US administration has not said whether it will comply with China’s demand to roll back the tariffs imposed under former President Donald Trump.
There is little sign of any easing of regional security, as China’s territorial and strategic ambitions in the Western Pacific meet adversity 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 called risky and destabilizing. The flights came as the US and five other countries conducted joint naval maneuvers with three aircraft carriers northeast of Taiwan. China describes such exercises as a provocation.
Biden is also under pressure from human rights activists and Republicans to take a strong stance on China, even as his administration seeks cooperation on climate change and to get North Korea to end its nuclear weapons program.
US Senator Marco Rubio, a Florida Republican and much critic, tweeted Wednesday that Biden is “dangerously delusional” if he thinks he can negotiate a climate deal by downplaying “superpower competition” with China.
Beijing residents were cautious about the future of relations, but some said it is better for both sides to talk than not. They blamed a hostile US attitude on the state of relations, echoing the Chinese government’s stance.
“I don’t have a good impression of the US,” He Taiqin said. “I feel the country is overbearing and aggressive.”

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