By José Carlos Palma*
In a notable shift in the Biden administration’s approach towards U.S.-China relations, the United States has initiated a series of dialogues and high-level engagements with Beijing, marking a departure from its earlier stance that conversations would only take place if they led to “tangible outcomes.” This change in strategy aims to mend a strained relationship between the two global superpowers, which had deteriorated earlier this year when the United States shot down a Chinese spy balloon. It has the potential to culminate in a highly anticipated meeting between President Joe Biden and Chinese President Xi Jinping in November, their first face-to-face encounter in a year.
The primary objective of this new approach is to establish channels of communication and ensure that tensions do not escalate to the point of conflict. A senior Biden administration official emphasized that the focus is on maintaining stable relations between the two countries. This approach comes as a response to the belief that the current atmosphere is less contentious than it was earlier in the year.
However, critics argue that this approach may carry its own risks. They express concerns that the talks and working groups established through this strategy might divert attention away from, and potentially delay, other critical actions such as sanctions, export controls, and competition measures.
Ivan Kanapathy, a former White House National Security Council deputy senior director for Asia, criticized the return to high-level economic dialogues, asserting that it benefits China while Beijing continues to evade issues related to military risk reduction, cyber theft, and human rights.
Balancing Act in U.S.-China Relations
Navigating the complex relationship with China presents a formidable diplomatic challenge for the United States. The Biden administration aims to counter China’s growing military influence without inciting a conflict and address perceived unfair trade practices without triggering a full-blown trade war. Officials assert that they are implementing tough measures when necessary while simultaneously expressing a willingness to engage in dialogue to maintain stable relations.
In the realm of high technology, the U.S. has imposed comprehensive restrictions on semiconductor exports and imposed bans on U.S. investment in certain Chinese tech firms. At the same time, the administration has offered incentives for companies to expand their operations within the United States.
Critics and Misconceptions
Critics of this approach argue that engaging with China could risk compromising U.S. interests and diluting the effectiveness of measures aimed at addressing China’s actions. They emphasize that stricter reciprocity should be the starting point in negotiations.
Republican Congressman Mike Gallagher, who leads the House of Representatives’s select committee on China’s Communist Party (CCP), along with Democratic lawmakers, criticized what he referred to as a year of “diplomatic accommodation.” He expressed disappointment that such diplomacy has not led to progress in addressing issues such as market access for U.S. companies in China, intellectual property theft, and Beijing’s actions in the South China Sea. He also highlighted delays in implementing defensive actions, such as export controls or sanctions on CCP officials.
Administration officials, however, reject the notion that engagement is undermining their policies towards China. They cite recent sanctions on China related to fentanyl as evidence that Beijing is not receiving special treatment. They also ensure that long-awaited regulations to close export control loopholes with Chinese technology companies are forthcoming.
Balancing Act in Diplomacy
Engagement with China is a necessary but complex endeavor, which often yields gradual rather than immediate results. Diplomats acknowledge that dialogue with Beijing is challenging and can be tense, yet it is deemed vital by both sides to clarify their respective “bottom lines.” These interactions aim to ensure that a diplomatic avenue remains open and can be pursued to prevent further escalation in U.S.-China relations.
In conclusion, the Biden administration’s pivot towards dialogue with China represents a strategic shift aimed at maintaining stability and open channels of communication between the two nations. While critics express concerns about potential delays in other policy measures, proponents argue that engagement is essential for effective diplomacy in addressing the complex challenges posed by China’s rising influence on the global stage. The future of U.S.-China relations will continue to evolve as both sides navigate the intricacies of this critical relationship.
* Expert in international relations, such as foreign policy, international trade, domestic security, international security, developing nations, domestic security, intelligence, IT Consultant, world history, political consultant, and military analysis.