US-China reset is in sight


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Precisely he was a guest, since previous high-level U.S.-China contacts took place on neutral territory. Or high-ranking Americans came to pay homage to the Celestial Empire. Here everything was substantial and under the stars-and-stripes flags. The parties went over the whole range of issues of bilateral relations. They synchronized their watches before something important …

The Russian media, especially the federal ones, concentrated mainly on the fact that during the talks the disagreements were discussed. Well, they are there. But, to all appearances, the main one — the White House’s frankly unconstructive rhetoric on the Taiwan issue — has at least been relegated to the background. Otherwise, this visit would not have taken place.

Everything else, including trade and economic relations, now fit into the formula of «managed competition and conflict avoidance», which both sides have apparently arrived at.

On the eve of the visit, Foreign Affairs magazine, the mouthpiece of the American establishment, published an extensive and even, one might say, conceptual article by Jake Sullivan, the U.S. President’s National Security Advisor. The main message is that the world has changed dramatically since the Cold War and has become more complex. Whereas before it was based on the rivalry between two essentially autonomous superpowers, now major competitors are more dependent on each other. The main issue in this arrangement is to keep the competition with China (sometimes very sharp) within limits. «Washington and Beijing need to figure out how to manage competition to reduce tensions and find a way to solve common problems», Sullivan writes, announcing a new rivalry policy of close interdependence. Here he sees the prescription in increased state capitalism and public investment in both U.S. and allied relations.

«The U.S. economy has acquired an alarming vulnerability. While it has prospered on the outside, beneath the surface entire communities have been devastated», — Sullivan explains. «The United States has ceded leadership in critical productive sectors. In recent decades, U.S. supply chains for critical minerals have become heavily dependent on unpredictable foreign markets, many of which are dominated by China. In an increasingly competitive world, there can be no doubt that Washington needs to break down the barrier between domestic and foreign policy and that large public investments are an important component of foreign policy».

Wang Yi, who in addition to his meetings with Blinken also held talks with Sullivan, expressed similar sentiments following the talks. «We have differences, but at the same time we also have important common interests, and we face challenges that we need to respond together. Therefore, China and the United States need to engage in dialog», Wang Yi said, among other things. Although the U.S. national security adviser in his article did not refrain from accusing China of allegedly violating trade rules and taking advantage of America’s openness to close its technological gap, the overall meaning and tone is quite different.

Against this background, Beijing has sent to the United States a whole support group of prominent athletes, public figures, whose task is to create an even more favorable background in Sino-American relations. Among them is not only Chinese basketball star Yao Ming, but also a large group of businessmen. And last Thursday, representatives of non-governmental organizations from the two countries held four hours of online talks, which included a high-ranking Chinese Communist Party official, Liu Jianchao, head of the Central Committee’s international relations department. This is such a favorite technique of «people’s diplomacy» used since Soviet times.

At the same time, China gave a truly presidential reception to California Governor Gavin Newsom, who was received by Chinese President Xi Jinping. In the conversation, Xi Jinping said that China and the United States are the world’s two largest economies, accounting for more than a third of the global economy and nearly a quarter of the world’s population. Bilateral trade accounts for about one-fifth of the global volume. So the interests of both sides are closely intertwined. According to Xi, the achievements in Sino-US relations have not been easy and should be cherished even more. And China’s policy toward the United States is consistent and based on the principles of mutual respect, peaceful coexistence and mutually beneficial cooperation.

And the envoy of sunny California and all the U.S. also held talks with Foreign Minister Wang Yi and Chinese Vice President Han Zheng. According to Chinese media reports, the agenda of the talks revolved around climate issues, but it is clear that the governor was probing the ground on the whole range of issues, including Taiwan and trade and economic relations. U.S. Ambassador to China Nicholas Burns, who joined the contacts, said afterward, «It was a very positive and important day for the United States». Chinese state media literally applauded the California governor, thanking him for his «deep connection» with China. Incidentally, Newsom’s deputy attended the second One Belt, One Road summit in 2019. And the governor himself could become a presidential candidate if Biden fails.

To top it off, the National Committee on U.S.-China Relations held its annual gala banquet in New York, at which messages from the two leaders were read. Chinese Ambassador to the United States Xie Feng said that China and the United States have recently held a series of important high-level exchanges, and Sino-U.S. relations have shown some positive signs of stabilization, which is widely welcomed by all social circles of the two countries and the international community.

Former U.S. Secretary of State Henry Kissinger was also honored there «for his outstanding contributions to China-U.S. relations». The aksakal of American foreign policy said the following: «I have devoted half of my life to working on U.S.-China relations. Peace and cooperation between the United States and China are vital and serve the interests of both countries and the world».

All of this suggests a détente in Sino-American relations. Or reset, as it was fashionable to say. The matter comes to the visit of Chinese President Xi Jinping to the APEC summit to be held in November this year in San Francisco, and to his talks with the U.S. president.

One can applaud China’s diplomacy for being flexible while persistently following the general principles enshrined in fundamental Party and state documents. In brief, these are non-confrontationalism, consensus-building, taking into account the interests of partners and their own, of course. In addition, it can be noted that the easing of tensions appears on the eve of the January elections in Taiwan, where the Kuomintang party, which has a positive attitude toward Beijing, may gain the upper hand. According to the most optimistic scenario, we may witness a peaceful drift of the rebellious island toward the mainland within the next year. Although it is very difficult to envision this now.