Biden-Xi talk, open communication channels - GulfToday

Biden-Xi talk, open communication channels


Joe Biden. File

It seems to be a replay of United States-Soviet Union relations as American President Joe Biden and Chinese President Xi Jinping met and talked for four hours on the sidelines of the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) summit on the outskirts of San Francisco on Wednesday. They have decided to open the hot button telephone lines between the offices of the two presidents in Washington and Beijing, and they have also decided to open communications between the two militaries at the highest levels.

And China had agreed to control the production of fentanyl that was part of the opioid misuse plaguing the medical system in America. Taiwan remained an obstacle, with China stressing that ultimately ‘reunification’ was inevitable, and the American leader asking for restraint. The meeting, as the one earlier between the two leaders at Bali on the sidelines of the G20 summit last November, is a grudging recognition on the part of the US that China is a world power to reckon with, and Washington has to learn to talk to Beijing. The US had stopped talking to Russia because it feels that Moscow is in a weak position.

Xi was more open to the Americans. It is a recognition that the US is a larger economy than China’s and it also has the larger military force. But when it comes to defending basic positions as on Taiwan, China maintains an uncompromising stance, and it would not let America browbeat it. Xi said at the beginning of the meeting that there is space enough for the two countries in the world.

He realises that China is developing its own sphere of influence across the world, and that this does not have to clash with the American sphere. Xi was more diplomatic, and it did not mean weakness, in his expression. He said, “For two large countries like China and the United States, turning their back on each other is not an option. It is unrealistic for one side to remodel the other.”

Biden on his part was as unsubtle as he could be. He was blunt to the point of being undiplomatic. He said, “We’re back to direct, open clear direct communication on a direct basis. He and I agreed that each one of us can pick up the phone call directly and we’ll be heard immediately.”

The rude part of Biden came when he said that he did not change his opinion that Xi is a dictator. He said, “Well, look he is. I mean, he’s a dictator in the sense that he is a guy who runs a country that is a communist country.” Biden remains the old type of American politician, who believes he is engaged in a holy war of ideology, with Russia’s Vladimir Putin and with China’s Xi Jinping. While the world has moved beyond the ideological divisions of the past, American presidents like Biden are unable to find anchor without one.

The US and China need each other on the economic front and the US needs China on the diplomatic front. At one level, Washington wants to wean Beijing away from Moscow, while it wants Beijing to restrain North Korea. On the other hand, America wants to restrict China as much as it could in the South China Sea, and also in relation to Taiwan.

The US has also been desperately trying to move away American businesses away from China to India and Vietnam. But China is aware that it has enough economic leeway to counter the American moves. Beijing is aware that it has to continue to deal with America with diplomatic cunning even as American tries to bulldoze its way against China.

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