President Xi and Biden Meeting Tomorrow: What Are the Issues and Should We Expect News?

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By Allawi Ssemanda

After meeting his Russian counterpart in Geneva, in June this year, U.S president Joe Biden told journalists that there are no secret codes to foreign policy. President Putin on the other hand told journalists; “such meetings are meant to save the world from nuclear destruction” and find solutions to world challenges. All this sounded comical as two leaders supposedly on a mission to save the world failed to hold a joint press conference despite being in the same city. They all addressed press minutes apart where they used sinister arguments and took swipes at each other’s countries.

Back to Xi-Biden virtual meeting! It is coming at a time when relations between the two countries are at its worst. Issues ranging from trade, technology, alleged influence peddling, military activities, origins of Covid-19 and human rights have always been cited as catalyst for animosity between Washington and Beijing. It is coming just days after visitation of U.S lawmakers to Taiwan, an Island China considers its breakaway territory. Indeed, Beijing described the visit an “act of provocation.

This meeting is coming less than two weeks after Pentagon harshly criticised Beijing alleging China tested hypersonic missiles. Indeed, U.S’ Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Mark Milley, compared alleged hypersonic missile test to a Sputnik moment, referring to the Soviet satellite launch that sparked a Cold War arms race. Days later, U.S also tested hypersonic missiles it accused China of testing! Indeed, in past few months, the U.S has been busy building military alliances analysts say China is the target. Alliances include AUKUS which will see Washington give Australia nuclear powered submarines and Quadrilateral Security Dialogue (QUAD) comprising of U.S, Australia, India and Japan.

While Biden administration says is willing to dialogue with Beijing, such talks must be sincere and mutual respect must be at centre. This means the U.S dropping support for separatists in Taipei which China considers a redline. Beijing has already indicated readiness to work with the U.S on condition of mutual respect stressing; both countries will gain from cooperation and lose from confrontation,Cooperation is the only right choice.”

If this is the case, Monday’s meeting will solve the obvious over-the-top ideological rhetoric and provoking hints seen during Trump administration and its failure to understand need for the two world’s leading economies to cooperate in addressing world’s challenges and other crude policy excuses that were overly ineffective and costly for both.

With a more professional and well-coordinated policy processes in Washington, and a president willing to read and absorb briefings of intelligence community and take experts advice, my view is that Monday’s meeting will pave way for further dialogue to address issues that affect the relationship of the two world’s biggest economies.

From military analysis, after U.S’ humiliation in Afghanistan, the U.S is arguably aware that when it comes to protecting national sovereignty, possibly, not even can AUKUS or QUAD can stop Beijing from protecting One China policy.

However, this is not failure to acknowledge that though such meetings are important, it is always not easy to strike a common ground. U.S considers China’s progress unacceptable for Washington fears this will limit her hegemonic tendences and global dominance the U.S enjoyed as unchallenged super power since 1990s. In international politics, the endgame of superpower contestation and claims of protecting human rights and the so-called democracy liberals claim has never been achieving a peaceful world free of nuclear weapons.

The logic that guides the so-called liberals, democrats and superpowers is just the logic of power and schemes on how to maintain dominance. History has taught us that when it comes to foreign policy, those who claim to champion democracy are even worse than those they brand autocratic. Arguably, some democracies’ foreign policy is largely characterised by imperialistic tendences – colonialism is the best example here. If compared with those they brand authoritarian, is mutual benefit and improving lives and livelihoods of people not just in home countries but globally.

What is striking is that as the so-called liberals attempt to spread their dominance and control emergence of ambitious powers in different regions and continents plus in their formerly strongholds, propaganda and politics comes in to play and in long run, lives of many have been cut short.  

With such background, there is need for the U.S to redefine its China policy and agree to bitter fact that gone are the days when they freely dominated entire Asian region. Pondering at this, a few questions come up: Will the Biden Administration follow Trump’s path of demonising and blaming China, referring to Beijing as U.S’ existential threat?

Blame China is tact often employed by both Republicans and Democrats in their effort to scare Americans so as to get their support for huge defence budget. The notion that China is a threat to the U.S and the world order is definitely unjustified. Chinese president Xi Jinping has been clear that China does not seek to dominate. Wonder, why would Beijing want to disrupt current order as some hawks in Washington claim yet the same order enabled Beijing navigate to move to the top?

With this, one can confidently say the fears that Washington claims Beijing poses are inaccurate, and grossly exaggerated. This lays a foundation for a second question: Will Biden appreciate such facts and accurately define where and how China is a threat to Washington as some hawks claim? Such an approach will present Washington in a more sober and pragmatic stance and hence, ease relations and any dealings with Beijing. Otherwise, the Biden presidency risks being swallowed with unsubstantiated characterisation at Capitol Hill who believe in Libido dominand concept – the urge to dominate and back those who don’t believe in a fair competition which will prioritise nothing but a zero-sum game, move with containment methods instead of the much-needed constructive forms of engagement which would bring positive results for both.

The other key question is: Biden administration accept the new bitter reality that gone is the era of Unipolar when the U.S enjoyed military dominance across maritime areas of Asia and that such an era will certainly not return in the near future. It is important to note that U.S politicians still reflexively boast of America’s military might and the supposed necessity of the U.S to maintain unchanged level of their military dominance in the region of the Asian Pacific while moving to China’s borders as they claim their so-called “freedom of action”. Arguably, it is naïve of Capitol Hill politicians to maintain that poorly conceived notion – that U.S military predominance can help to ensure order, and it is also delusional to imagine that the U.S has that much needed financial muscle of ensuring they retain the kind of military prowess very close to China as they wish to.

The open secret is that the world is headed to a de facto balance of power in Western Pacific between U.S and allies on one hand and China on the other. The trouble is that by nature, such balances often are risky – tempting each side to test its strength and leverage. In this case, the issue of Taiwan and Chinese maritime disputes with the United States and her allies may become a reality. However, if the Biden approach to the Taiwan question is respecting China’s one country policy, these talks will produce good results.

In sum, U.S’ problem is not China and has never been China. It is what John J. Mearsheimer called “Tragedy of Great Power Politics” – that is, a former super power failing to contain emerging powers.

The writer is the executive director Development Watch Centre, a foreign policy think tank, and author of Global Governance and Norm Contestation: How BRICS is Reshaping World Order.




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