U.S. – China relations December 2020 – September 2022

Written by  //  September 22, 2022  //  China, Foreign Policy, Trade & Tariffs, U.S.  //  Comments Off on U.S. – China relations December 2020 – September 2022

19-22 September
The Partners in the Blue Pacific: A New Alliance in the Region
(Organisation for Research on China and Asia (ORCA) The new informal alliance demonstrates another strategic partnership in the Indo-Pacific region of the United States (US) and its allies, and also demonstrates the solidarity of the member-countries around the problem of China’s increasing influence in the region.
There are indications that the rhetoric of the Chinese authorities demonstrates a negative attitude towards any pro-American alliances: Beijing believes that they are aimed at encircling and containing China. According to Beijing, such alliances in the future may lead to the creation of a full-fledged anti-Chinese coalition. From China’s point of view, the US Indo-Pacific strategy, through the creation of exclusive alliances, provokes conflicts and tensions in the region.
According to an official press release from the White House, London, Canberra, Wellington, Washington and Tokyo list the following as the main goals of cooperation:
1. Deliver the goals more effectively and efficiently for the Pacific region
Of special interest will be the attempts by the new format to try in the long run to supplement cooperation in the defense sphere with joint projects in the field of economic and infrastructural development of the Indo-Pacific region, designed to become an alternative to the Chinese initiative “One Belt and One Road”. Most importantly, another opportunity to export Japanese defense-relevant equipment to the Oceanian markets is being increased.
Pacific islands a key U.S. military buffer to China’s ambitions, report says
(Reuters) – China sees the Pacific islands as an area of significant strategic interest and the United States should strengthen its commitment to north Pacific island states, now in talks to renew a defence compact, to maintain a vital military buffer, a report released Tuesday by a U.S. Congress-funded think tank said.
China had made progress in the Pacific on geostrategic goals it has been unable to achieve elsewhere, said the report for the United States Institute for Peace, whose co-authors include former senior military officials.
The Marshall Islands, the Federated States of Micronesia (FSM) and Palau are sovereign nations known as Freely Associated States (FAS), after signing compacts in the late 1980s that give the U.S. defence responsibility and the right to military bases.
The compacts, which expire in 2023 and 2024, are being renegotiated, and the report warned that these states could look to China for funding if negotiations fail.
“The vast FAS territorial seas, which span much of the northern Pacific, are an important strategic buffer between U.S. defense assets in Guam and Hawaii and East Asian littoral waters,” said the report, whose authors include Philip Davidson, a former commander of the U.S. Indo-Pacific Command, and David Stilwell, a former U.S. assistant secretary of state.
Blinken to host ‘Blue Pacific’ event amid competition with China
(Reuters) – U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken will host the Partners in the Blue Pacific (PBP) countries on Thursday with the aim of better coordinating assistance to the region in the face of competition from China, a White House official said.
The Blue Pacific event, on the sidelines of the U.N. General Assembly in New York, will come ahead of a Sept. 28-29 summit U.S. President Joe Biden plans to host with Pacific island leaders, which Campbell said reflected “a desire to demonstrate clearly our larger commitment to the Pacific going forward.”
He said Washington did not want to see the region descend into “zero-sum” competition and he looked forward to conversations with Solomon Islands Prime Minister Manasseh Sogavare and his delegation.

10 August
Ian Bremmer: Pelosi’s Taiwan trip is a gift to China
The visit was a rare opportunity for China to shift the balance of power in its favor without risking an escalatory response from the U.S. and its allies.
As China’s economic and military capabilities have grown and the balance of power has moved in Beijing’s favor, Chinese intimidation of Taipei and incursions into the Taiwan Strait have become increasingly commonplace, heightening the risk of confrontation.
However, ever since watching the Russian invasion of Ukraine galvanize a once“brain dead” transatlantic alliance overnight, Xi had adopted a more cautious stance on Taiwan, fearing that any move toward coercive reunification would be met with strong and united opposition from America and its allies—potentially risking a humiliating military defeat, devastating economic sanctions, and sweeping diplomatic isolation. This was a risk Xi was not willing to take in the run-up to the 20th Party Congress, where he’s set to secure a norm-defying third term in power.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s visit to Taiwan last week upended that calculus. …  Knowing that Biden opposed the move and had no interest in a near-term conflict over Taiwan, Xi Jinping suddenly found himself able to shift the status quo in his favor with minimal risk of retaliation.

9 August
Biden signs bill to boost U.S. chips, compete with China
(Reuters) – President Joe Biden on Tuesday signed a landmark bill to provide $52.7 billion in subsidies for U.S. semiconductor production and research and to boost efforts to make the United States more competitive with China’s science and technology efforts.
“The future is going to be made in America,” Biden said, calling the measure “a once-in-a-generation investment in America itself.”
The legislation aims to alleviate a persistent shortage that has affected everything from cars, weapons, washing machines and video games. Thousands of cars and trucks remain parked in southeast Michigan awaiting chips as the shortage continues to impact automakers.
A rare major foray into U.S. industrial policy, the bill also includes a 25% investment tax credit for chip plants, estimated to be worth $24 billion.
The legislation authorizes $200 billion over 10 years to boost U.S. scientific research to better compete with China. Congress would still need to pass separate appropriations legislation to fund those investments.

7 August
Is the Sri Lankan Debt Crisis a Harbinger?
Why U.S.-Chinese Tensions Put Developing Countries at Risk
By Shantayanan Devarajan and Homi Kharas
(Foreign Affairs) The bad news is that friction between China and Western countries has made it harder for developing nations to renegotiate their debt, since Beijing does not want to bail out private U.S. or European financial institutions and Western governments do not want to bail out Chinese financial institutions. To stave off a string of devastating defaults in the developing world, two things will have to happen at once: at-risk countries will need to seek help from international financial institutions before it is too late, and Chinese and Western creditors will need to do a better job of coordinating their debt restructuring processes.

2-7 August
Pelosi’s ‘reckless’ Taiwan visit deepens US-China rupture – why did she go?
The Speaker insisted she was promoting democracy but critics suggest a last hurrah before she loses the gavel in November
David Smith
(The Guardian) Roy Blunt lived up to his surname when he said this week: “So I’m about to use four words in a row that I haven’t used in this way before, and those four words are: ‘Speaker Pelosi was right.’”
The Republican senator was praising Nancy Pelosi’s visit to Taiwan, the first by a speaker of the US House of Representatives in a quarter of a century.
But not everyone was so sure. In poking the hornets’ nest and enraging China, which claims the self-governing island as its territory, Pelosi deepened a rupture between the world’s two most powerful countries – and may have hurt the very cause she was seeking to promote.
… So why did Pelosi go? The speaker is a fervent defender of Taiwan and critic of China’s human rights abuses. During the visit, she pointed to a global struggle between autocracy and democracy, a favourite theme of Joe Biden’s, and told reporters in Taipei: “We cannot back away from that.”
But the 82-year-old may also have been rushing for a last hurrah before November’s midterm elections in which she is expected to lose the speaker’s gavel. Her televised meetings in Taiwan, sure to have registered in Beijing, appeared to some like a vanity project.

China’s military exercises are an intel bonanza — for all sides
Washington, Beijing and Taipei are watching each other closely as events unfold near Taiwan.
(Politico) China’s massing of ships, aircraft and missiles near Taiwan is giving the U.S. a never-before-seen glimpse of how Beijing might launch a military campaign against the island. But China is also learning plenty of lessons that could eventually prove more important in how it plans for any future strike against the island of 23 million people.
China Sends Ships and Planes Toward Taiwan, Defying Rising Criticism
Beijing also halted talks with the United States on the military, climate change and other issues, sending ties between the two powers into a deeper chill.
(NYT) China sent a force of warships and aircraft into waters and airspace near Taiwan on Friday, defying international criticism of its military exercises and demonstrating the country’s growing appetite for confrontation over the island that it claims as its territory.
The military exercise came a day after at least 11 Chinese missiles landed in waters to the north, south and east of Taiwan, driving fears that Chinese forces were practicing for a hypothetical attempt to encircle and attack the island. On Friday, China’s military deployed fighter jets, bombers, destroyers and escort ships to waters near the island.
China halts climate, military ties over Pelosi Taiwan visit
(NPR) China declared Friday it was stopping all dialogue with the United States on major issues, from climate change to military relations, in a day of rapidly escalating tensions over House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s visit to Taiwan. The White House summoned China’s ambassador to protest what it called China’s “irresponsible” actions since the visit.
China’s military exercises off Taiwan in reaction to Pelosi’s visit earlier this week were of “concern to Taiwan, to us, and to our partners around the world,” spokesman John Kirby said in a statement after Thursday’s formal diplomatic rebuke to Ambassador Qin Gang at the White House.
China’s measures, which come amid cratering relations between Beijing and Washington, are the latest in a promised series of steps intended to punish the U.S. for allowing the visit to the island it claims as its own territory, to be annexed by force if necessary.
Is Pelosi’s trip to Taiwan a mistake?
Ian Bremmer: Absolutely. The Chinese were very public and very consistent in their warnings. But Pelosi decided to go anyway for legacy-building reasons, forcing (or giving cover for?) Xi to retaliate lest he lose face before he’s able to secure his third term. We’ve already seen live-fire military exercises and missile tests going over Taiwan through Taiwanese airspace. Beyond that, there have been sanctions already on over a hundred Taiwanese companies that provide food to China, and on Pelosi herself. They’ve suspended cooperation with the U.S. on climate and halted military-to-military talks. I do think that the Chinese, given their economic challenges right now, are not looking for a massive crisis. The odds of direct military confrontation are vanishingly small. But this is going to significantly deteriorate relations between the two most powerful countries in the world, and inadvertent escalation is clearly possible in that environment

The coming aftershocks from Pelosi’s Taiwan trip
(Atlantic Council) US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi met with Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen and other island officials today—despite warnings from China (and some US officials) that the visit could escalate cross-Strait tensions. In response, China announced military drills around Taiwan this week and import restrictions on the island. With Pelosi now wheels-up from Taipei, what’s coming next in the US-China showdown? And how will the trip shake up life in Taiwan? Our experts map out the terrain.

China conducts live-fire exercises around Taiwan as Pelosi visits
Taiwan says unprecedented six days of exercises violate UN rules, invade its territorial space and amount to a blockade.
The unprecedented six days of military exercises began on Tuesday night after Pelosi landed on the island, featuring J-20 stealth fighter jets and test firing of conventional missiles, according to the Global Times tabloid.
On Wednesday, the Eastern Theater Command said a multi-force exercise involving the Navy, Air Force, Rocket Force, Strategic Support Force and Joint Logistics Support Force took place in the air and sea to the north, southwest and southeast of Taiwan. They practised various exercises, including simulated sea and land attacks.

Politico’s Nightly Newsletter has a quite lengthy and well argued analysis of why Pelosi’s trip has stirred up so much tension, and how bad the aftermath could be. Scroll down to BLUSTER, NO BRAWL
China sends warships to surround Taiwan amid Pelosi visit
The Pentagon has deployed four U.S. warships, including an aircraft carrier, in waters east of Taiwan.
Pelosi arrives in Taiwan, voicing U.S. ‘solidarity’ as China fumes
Chinese warplanes buzz Taiwan Strait dividing line
U.S. House speaker’s visit has enraged Beijing
Beijing insists self-ruled Taiwan is part of China
China’s foreign ministry on Tuesday condemned U.S. House of Representatives Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s visit to China, saying it seriously damages peace and stability in the Taiwan Strait.
(Reuters) In a statement issued just after her arrival in Taipei late on Tuesday, China’s foreign ministry said Pelosi’s visit severely impacts the political foundations of China-U.S. relations, and said it had lodged a strong protest with the United States.
Bloomberg earlier comments:
Her trip…has already caused ructions in US-China relations. It overshadowed a call last week between President Joe Biden and his Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping.
It comes at a very delicate time in ties, with tensions soaring over everything from trade to human rights and, more recently, China’s refusal to condemn Russia for its invasion of Ukraine.
It puts both Biden and Xi in a bind. The White House is clearly uneasy about the trip, but Biden has to be careful not to be seen to be ordering her to cancel it. China has been so vocal in its displeasure, warning of potential military or economic retaliation (or both), that Xi might have to do something simply to avoid being seen as weak.

28 July
Cooperation with China: Challenges and opportunities
Report By Michael Schuman, David O. Shullman
(Atlantic Council) Cooperation with China should focus on areas where our interests still align and where we can keep Beijing grounded in the international system. Like-minded allies and partners must pair such efforts with commitments to defend against China’s violations of international norms, impose costs on irresponsible behavior, and strengthen themselves and current global institutions to compete effectively and uphold liberal values.

31 July
Pelosi Heads for Singapore, but Is Silent on Taiwan
Speculation about a stop in Taiwan, where she would be the highest-ranking U.S. visitor in decades, has jangled nerves in both Beijing and Washington.
(NYT) Speaker Nancy Pelosi was expected to appear in Singapore on Monday as part of a closely watched tour of Asia that has stoked fears, including at the highest levels of the American government, of dangerously heightened tensions with China over the possibility that she would make a stop in Taiwan.
On Sunday, Ms. Pelosi revealed some more details about her itinerary, which she had previously declined to disclose, citing security concerns. Her office said in a statement that her trip, on which she would be accompanied by a small congressional delegation, would include visits to Singapore, Malaysia, South Korea and Japan, to “focus on mutual security, economic partnership and democratic governance in the Indo-Pacific region.”
Why Pelosi’s Proposed Taiwan Visit Is Raising U.S.-China Tensions
Beijing has issued strongly worded warnings implying that China might use military force if Nancy Pelosi moves forward with a planned trip to Taiwan.

3 August
Navigating great power competition – A serious planning start
Bruce Jones
(Brookings) The 2022 Navigation Plan (NavPlan) lays out nothing short of an ambitious blueprint for preserving American maritime dominance. Other U.S. armed services — notably the Marines — have already laid out some of their own required transformations for deterrence and warfighting against powerful competitors. The Air Force and the Army lag in laying out a credible vision for their role in the current threat environment. This document, coming from the Navy, is crucial, as many of the key tasks ahead are uniquely naval functions.  

28 July
In call with Biden, China’s Xi warns against ‘playing with fire’ over Taiwan
By Steve Holland, Michael Martina and Ryan Woo
(Reuters) – Chinese state media said Xi told Biden in their fifth call as leaders that the United States should abide by the “one-China principle” and stressed that China firmly opposed Taiwanese independence and interference of external forces.
Beijing has issued escalating warnings about repercussions should Pelosi – a Democrat like Biden – visit Taiwan, which says it is facing increasing Chinese military and economic threats. A visit by the House speaker would be a dramatic, though not unprecedented, show of U.S. support for the island.
The presidents’ call lasted over two hours. U.S. officials had said it would have a broad agenda, including discussion of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, which China has yet to condemn.
At its core though, U.S. officials said they saw the exchange as another chance to manage competition between the world’s two largest economies, whose ties have been increasingly clouded by tensions over democratically governed Taiwan, which Xi has vowed to reunite with the mainland, by force if necessary.

27 July
Senate passes bill to reduce reliance on China for semiconductors
(NPR) Supporters argue the legislation is long overdue and will lower U.S. reliance on China for chip manufacturing, which they say poses a national security risk.
According to the Congressional Research Service, nearly four-fifths of global fabrication capacity was in Asia as of 2019.
“We used to make 40% of the world’s chips, we make about 12% now,” Secretary of Commerce Gina Raimondo said during a virtual roundtable with President Biden Monday afternoon. “The reality is, while we have invested nothing to spur domestic chip manufacturing, China has invested more than $150 billion to build their own domestic capacity. So we’re very much behind.”

9 July
U.S. tells China that its support for Russia in Ukraine complicates relations
(NPR) China’s support for Russia’s war in Ukraine is complicating U.S.-Chinese relations at a time when they are already beset by rifts and enmity over numerous other issues, U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken told his Chinese counterpart on Saturday.
Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi blamed the U.S. for the downturn in relations and said that American policy has been derailed by what he called a misperception of China as a threat.
In five hours of talks in their first-to-face meeting since October, Blinken said he expressed deep concern about China’s stance on Russia’s actions in Ukraine and did not believe Beijing’s protestations that it is neutral in the conflict.
The talks had been arranged in a new effort to try to rein in or at least manage rampant hostility that has come to define recent relations between Washington and Beijing.

15 June
China’s Xi reaffirms support for Russia’s security concerns
(Al Jazeera) According to Moscow Xi Jinping ‘noted the legitimacy of the actions’ taken by Russia to protect its national interests
Xi told Putin on Wednesday “all parties should responsibly push for a proper settlement of the Ukraine crisis,” according to the official Xinhua news agency.

19 May
Biden Begins Trip to Asia Meant to Reassure Allies of Focus on China
With the administration’s attention having shifted to Ukraine, President Biden plans to emphasize that the United States can counter aggression in both Europe and Asia.

18 April
The US Battles China in the Pacific (long video)
(China Unscripted) China wants to become the dominant power in the Pacific, and for a while, it was gaining ground. However the United States is waking up to China’s threat in the region and is fighting back. In this episode of China Unscripted, we talk about China’s influence in the Solomon Islands, how the Solomon Islands is a case study on Chinese colonialism, and how China uses civilians to infiltrate other countries. Joining us in this episode is Cleo Paskal.

30 March
A Conversation With Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong
(Council on Foreign Relations) America has always had worldwide preoccupations. I mean, if it had not been Ukraine, it would have been Iran or something else would have come up somewhere else in the world; Latin America, from time to time, preoccupies you too. So I think we accept that you have worldwide, far-flung interests, but the Asia Pacific is one of those areas where you not only have China, whose relationship you must manage, but also so many other partners of the United States, some of them your allies, others of them your friends, many of them with very substantial economic ties to the United States. And you’ve developed this relationship and these interests and this region of relative stability and peace in the world for nearly eighty years since the war, so whatever your other far-flung interests, this is something which you cannot walk away from. And I think that U.S. presidents understand this and they all have given personal attention to this, but I can’t see them focusing on this to the exclusion of everything else. Neither do I think they are very likely to neglect their relationship with China because they are preoccupied elsewhere. What we do worry is as—while dealing with China, whether there’s also bandwidth and appetite and possibility to develop relations with Southeast Asia and other countries in the regions.

24 March
The Dangers of a Catastrophic Conflict Between the U.S. and Xi Jinping’s China (video 71 minutes)
(Asia Society) Following an introduction from Singaporean diplomat and Asia Society Co-Chair Chan Heng Chee, Asia Society President and CEO Kevin Rudd delivered brief remarks before discussing the U.S.-China relationship with Ian Bremmer, president and founder of Eurasia Group and GZERO Media. The conversation was part of the New York launch event for Rudd’s newest book The Avoidable War, which examines the past, present, and future of U.S.-China relations and outlines steps the two can take to avoid a catastrophic conflict in the years to come.

18 February
Richard Haass: America and China’s Unhappy Anniversary
Fifty years ago, the United States responded to the Sino-Soviet split with a foreign policy that was creative in both design and execution. Given the current poor state of Sino-American relations, the best way to mark the anniversary is by crafting an equally imaginative approach to reviving bilateral cooperation.
Fifty years after President Nixon’s historic trip to China, U.S.-China relations are at a crossroads.
The best way to mark the 50th anniversary of the opening to China is not with champagne but by crafting an equally imaginative approach to help revive the relationship. This would again acknowledge the differences between the two countries’ political and social systems, continue to finesse their disagreement on Taiwan, maintain economic ties other than those involving sensitive technologies, and foster cooperation on regional issues such as Afghanistan and North Korea, in addition to tackling global challenges together.
It is no less essential that the US address its domestic divisions, expand its cooperation with European and Asian allies in order to deter Chinese aggression, and join regional trade pacts. Regular, high-level discussions with Chinese leaders are imperative

6 January
U.S. aims to step up economic ties in Indo-Pacific in year ahead
By Michael Martina and David Brunnstrom
(Reuters) White House Indo-Pacific coordinator Kurt Campbell said on Thursday President Joe Biden had made clear the United States needs to be instrumental in the framing of economic and commercial engagement and trade practices in the Indo-Pacific as China’s influence grows.


16 December
Washington Is Preparing for the Wrong War With China
A Conflict Would Be Long and Messy
By Hal Brands and Michael Beckley
(Foreign Affairs) The United States is getting serious about the threat of war with China. The U.S. Department of Defense has labeled China its primary adversary, civilian leaders have directed the military to develop credible plans to defend Taiwan, and President Joe Biden has strongly implied that the United States would not allow that island democracy to be conquered.
Yet Washington may be preparing for the wrong kind of war. Defense planners appear to believe that they can win a short conflict in the Taiwan Strait merely by blunting a Chinese invasion. Chinese leaders, for their part, seem to envision rapid, paralyzing strikes that break Taiwanese resistance and present the United States with a fait accompli. Both sides would prefer a splendid little war in the western Pacific, but that is not the sort of war they would get.

16 November
Biden, Xi stick to their positions but turn down the heat in three-hour talk
(Reuters) U.S. President Joe Biden pressed his Chinese counterpart on human rights in a video call lasting more than three hours, while Xi Jinping warned that China would respond to provocations on Taiwan, according to official accounts of the exchange.
The closely scrutinized conversation between the leaders of the world’s biggest economies was described by both sides as frank and direct as the two sides tried to lower the temperature and avoid conflict.
The talks…appeared to yield no immediate outcomes, but gave the two leaders opportunity to nudge their relations away from icy confrontation, even as they stuck to entrenched positions.
They discussed North Korea, Afghanistan, Iran, global energy markets, trade and competition, climate, military issues, the pandemic and other areas where they frequently disagree.
Biden tells Xi must ensure relations do not veer into open conflict
– U.S. President Joe Biden said at the start of a virtual meeting with Chinese leader Xi Jinping on Monday that they both have a responsibility as leaders to ensure that relations between China and the United States do not veer into open conflict.
‘Old friends?’ For Xi and Biden, not necessarily
Chinese leader Xi Jinping greeted U.S. President Joe Biden as “old friend” at the start of their first video meeting, using an expression that Biden has pushed back on.
In China, the expression “lao peng you” connotes fondness and shows a level of familiarity and trust, and when said by Xi, 68, reflects a shared history that dates to August 2011, when the two held hours of conversations and travelled in Sichuan province – before either had reached the highest office.
Xi, Biden wrap up ‘virtual’ meeting amid rising tension
Relations between China and the United States have deteriorated over issues including Taiwan, Hong Kong and Xinjiang.
(Al Jazeera) In his opening remarks ahead of the call on Monday night in the US, Biden acknowledged that competition between the US and China was expected but said it was his and Xi’s personal responsibility as leaders to ensure that rivalry did not veer into conflict, according to a White House transcript.
China’s state media noted the “friendly tone” of the opening of the discussions, and reflected the “personal relationship” between the two leaders, Wu Xinbo, dean of the Institute of International Studies at Fudan University, told the state-run Global Times.
“It’s rare for heads of state to have such a long conversation, and such a good relationship is seen as a positive condition for handling bilateral ties,” Wu told the paper.
(WaPo) President Biden and Chinese President Xi Jinping met Monday in a virtual summit that featured no breakthroughs but enabled the two global superpowers to engage on a slew of sensitive issues that have strained ties — including Taiwan, trade and human rights.
In a 3½-hour conversation that the White House characterized as “respectful and straightforward and … open,” the two sides did not make pledges or depart from established positions. But the engagement was an acknowledgment that conflict, whether over trade or the South China Sea, can have grave repercussions around the world.

Josh Rogin writes that Biden administration soon to announce diplomatic boycott of the Beijing Olympics This diplomatic boycott is intended, the sources say, as a way to respond to the Chinese government’s human rights abuses without impacting U.S. athletes.

11 November
Daron Acemoglu: Climate Change vs. the Sino-American Cold War
In the absence of meaningful policies from both China and the United States, this year’s climate-change summit, COP26, was never going to deliver what the world really needs. Ultimately, getting both countries on the same page and cooperating on the issue will require public pressure from their own people.
(Project Syndicate) Climate change represents a unique opportunity for the two countries to cooperate, and their surprise announcement of a plan to work together on curbing methane emissions provides some hope. But the current geopolitical environment stacks the cards against broad cooperation.
The US political system remains highly vulnerable to lobbying by Big Oil, which is doing everything it can to block or slow-roll meaningful action, while actively greenwashing to buy time. Moreover, US President Joe Biden’s administration, understandably, is on tackling formidable domestic challenges related to infrastructure, poverty, inequality, and polarization before next year’s midterm elections, when his Democratic Party may lose its congressional majorities.
Meanwhile, the sixth plenum of the Communist Party of China has just commenced in Beijing, where the focus will be on consolidating President Xi Jinping’s rule and the CPC’s dominance over the population. The Chinese leadership understands that it must maintain tight control over data and media, while still delivering sufficient economic growth to stave off discontent within the country’s growing middle class. As a result, climate change is not an immediate priority for the CPC, and a global carbon tax would be a major impediment to its main objectives because it would eliminate a major source of Chinese exports’ cost advantage: cheap coal. It also would force a much faster economic restructuring away from fossil fuels than the current leadership would like.

10 November
China and the US announce plan to work together on cutting emissions
In a surprise press conference, the two superpowers promised to cooperate more and hoped for the success of Cop26
Xi Jinping warns against return to Asia-Pacific tensions of cold war era
Chinese leader urges countries in region to work together amid growing pressure from US over Taiwan

13 October
TaiwanPlus tries to change the narrative on self-ruled island
New media outlet launched as the democratic island, which is claimed by Beijing, faces an increasingly hostile China.

10 October
Taiwan will not bow down to China, says president
Tsai Ing-wen says Taiwan will continue to boost its defences ‘to ensure that nobody can force’ the territory to ‘accept the path China has laid out for us’.

9 October
Xi vows Taiwan ‘reunification’, but holds off threat of force
Chinese leader’s latest statement comes amid repeated incursions of Taiwan’s air defence identification zone involving close to 150 aircraft.
‘Starting a Fire’: U.S. and China Enter Dangerous Territory Over Taiwan
The self-ruled island has moved to the heart of deepening discord and rivalry between the two superpowers, with the potential to ignite military conflagration and reshape the regional order.
(NYT) …the balance of power around Taiwan is fundamentally shifting, pushing a decades-long impasse over its future into a dangerous new phase. After holding out against unification demands from China’s communist rulers for more than 70 years, Taiwan is now at the heart of the deepening discord between China and the United States. The island’s fate has the potential to reshape the regional order and even to ignite a military conflagration — intentional or not.
China’s military might has, for the first time, made a conquest of Taiwan conceivable, perhaps even tempting. The United States wants to thwart any invasion but has watched its military dominance in Asia steadily erode. Taiwan’s own military preparedness has withered, even as its people become increasingly resistant to unification.

4 October
The China Sleepwalking Syndrome
Joseph S. Nye, Jr.
If the Sino-American relationship were a hand of poker, Americans would recognize that they have been dealt a good hand and avoid succumbing to fear or belief in the decline of the US. But even a good hand can lose if it is played badly.
(Project Syndicate) A successful US strategy toward China starts at home. It requires preserving democratic institutions that attract rather than coerce allies, investing in research and development that maintains America’s technological advantage, and maintaining America’s openness to the world. Externally, the US should restructure its legacy military forces to adapt to technological change; strengthen alliance structures, including NATO and arrangements with Japan, Australia, and South Korea; enhance relations with India; strengthen and supplement the international institutions the US helped create after World War II to set standards and manage interdependence; and cooperate with China where possible on transnational issues. So far, the Biden administration is following such a strategy, but 1914 is a constant reminder about prudence.

28 September
Biden’s hot and cold China policy
By Renuka Rayasam
(Politico Nightly) President Joe Biden hasn’t exactly unraveled his predecessor’s tough-on-China approach, keeping in place Trump-era tariffs and echoing the former president’s rhetoric. Despite Biden’s outward approach, there are signs that he wants to thaw the deep freeze in bilateral relations, China Watcher host Phelim Kine told Nightly today over Slack.
Biden recognizes that both sides have too much to lose by maintaining the current hostile status quo, and that prompted him to initiate the outreach to Chinese President Xi Jinping earlier this month. It’s symbolically important because Biden is messaging Xi that he wants a relationship reset of some kind. Or at least a lower-level of bilateral vitriol.

25 September
To Get Back Arrested Executive, China Uses a Hardball Tactic: Seizing Foreigners
The speed at which Beijing returned two Canadians held seemingly tit-for-tat in exchange may signal comfort with the tactic.
Chris Buckley and
(NYT) The exchange resolves one of the festering disputes that have brought tensions between Washington and Beijing to their worst point in decades. But it will likely do little to resolve deeper issues including human rights, a sweeping clampdown in Hong Kong, cyberespionage, China’s threats to use force against Taiwan, and fears in Beijing that the United States will never accept China’s rise.

21 September
At U.N., Biden Calls for Diplomacy, Not Conflict, but Some Are Skeptical
The president said he wants global cooperation to meet challenges, but some allies and adversaries say his actions point to confrontation with China and unilateral action, belying his words.
David Sanger
(NYT) Throughout his speech, Mr. Biden never uttered the word “China,” though his efforts to redirect American competitiveness and national security policy have been built around countering Beijing’s growing influence. But he laced his discussion with a series of choices that essentially boiled down to backing democracy over autocracy, a scarcely veiled critique of both President Xi Jinping of China and Vladimir V. Putin of Russia.

15 September
Biden announces joint deal with U.K. and Australia to counter China
The new allies’ agreement will include cooperation on nuclear-powered subs, AI and cutting-edge defense tech.
(Politico) The trio, now known by the acronym AUKUS, will make it easier for the three countries to share information and know-how in key technological areas like artificial intelligence, cyber, quantum, underwater systems, and long-range strike capabilities.
There’s nothing explicitly about China in the three-way deal, but two U.S. officials noted that the subtext of the announcement is that this is another move by Western allies to push back on China’s rise in the military and technology arenas.
A new class of nuclear-powered submarines would give Washington and its allies in the Pacific a powerful new tool to attempt to contain Chinese military expansion, and would follow on the current deployment of a British aircraft carrier to the region, and recent transits by French and German warships to the South China Sea.

1 September
Welcome to Cold War II
Ari David Blaff
(Quillette) In early June, with little fanfare or press coverage, the US Senate passed a 2,400-page bill called “The United States Innovation and Competition Act (USICA).” Heralded as “the most significant government intervention in industrial policy in decades,” the bill will pump over $200 billion into a diverse spectrum of R&D initiatives over the next five years with the sole purpose of bolstering “competitiveness against China.”
As the world turned inwards and borders began to close, complex global supply chains were paralyzed. Locked-down countries had entire industrial sectors knocked out at the very moment they were most needed. It wasn’t until February 2020, nearly three months after COVID-19 cases began to appear, that China restarted its medical factories.
“For decades, politicians and corporate officials ignored warnings about the risks associated with America’s over-dependence on foreign manufacturing, and a lack of adequate preparation at home,” Mendoza and Linderman contend. Unfortunately, it took the worst pandemic in a century and over half-a-million deaths for America to wake up.
The same goes for semiconductors.

2 August
The long game: China’s grand strategy to displace American order
Rush Doshi
Editor’s Note: The following is an excerpt from “The Long Game: China’s Grand Strategy to Displace American Order” by former Brookings Fellow Rush Doshi.
(Brookings) This introductory chapter summarizes the book’s argument. It explains that U.S.-China competition is over regional and global order, outlines what Chinese-led order might look like, explores why grand strategy matters and how to study it, and discusses competing views of whether China has a grand strategy. It argues that China has sought to displace America from regional and global order through three sequential “strategies of displacement” pursued at the military, political, and economic levels. The first of these strategies sought to blunt American order regionally, the second sought to build Chinese order regionally, and the third — a strategy of expansion — now seeks to do both globally. The introduction explains that shifts in China’s strategy are profoundly shaped by key events that change its perception of American power.

26 July
Bloomberg: The U.S. went into its latest face-to-face meeting with China on the back foot. And arguably stayed there.
The preamble was already fraught, with reports of wrangling over whether China would provide an official of equal standing to meet with Deputy Secretary of State Wendy Sherman. In the end, it agreed to pony up Foreign Minister Wang Yi.
The talks — the first since a testy chat between top diplomats in Alaska in March — were held in the northern port city of Tianjin, giving China a home-court advantage. The U.S. made some overtures going in, reportedly moving to drop visa fraud charges against some Chinese researchers, even as it kept up the pressure on human rights in Hong Kong and Xinjiang.
The Chinese officials came out swinging. They accused America of treating Beijing as an “imagined enemy,” handing over a list of demands and declaring ties between the world’s two largest economies in a “stalemate.”
The Americans were presumably hoping things could at least be more convivial than in Alaska, and pave the way for higher level discussions — perhaps even a meeting between Presidents Joe Biden and Xi Jinping at the G-20 summit in Italy in late October.
It’s still possible that’s the case. Beijing may be speaking mostly to a domestic audience with the Tianjin rhetoric (Vice Foreign Minister Xie Feng told Sherman: “The Chinese people look at things with eyes wide open.”) And buried in the comments was a reference to seeking common ground.
Xi might also gain from seeing Biden in person in Italy. The U.S. president already met Vladimir Putin for a summit and the Russian leader sold that heavily at home as recognition of his global heft.

28 June
‘Build Back Better World’ and the Belt and Road Are Not Necessarily at Odds
Notwithstanding China-U.S. competition, there are a lot of ways in which the two initiatives are complementary.
(The Diplomat) On June 12, the G-7 nations unveiled Build Back Better World (B3W), a values-driven and transparent partnership to provide infrastructure to low- and middle-income countries. In a time of heightened China-U.S. competition and confrontation, many interpret the B3W as a U.S.-led counterproposal to the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), a global engagement plan also focused on infrastructure that China proposed in 2013, now involving partnerships with 140 countries and international organizations.
However, there is no reason to think that the two initiatives are necessarily at odds with one another. Granted, political and security tensions between U.S. and China suggest that the two initiatives may not work closely together anytime soon. But as the B3W evolves from a statement of intent to more concrete plans, there is still plenty of time for Sino-American dynamics to shift and for the two powers to identify realistic common ground.

9-12 June
Biden asks G-7 to take a tougher line on China, but not all allies are enthusiastic
(WaPo) President Biden is asking leaders of other wealthy democracies to make a unified front against China’s use of forced labor, arguing Saturday that a stronger line is a moral and practical imperative.
The Group of Seven economic club is also expected to agree on a joint alternative to heavy-handed Chinese economic expansion tactics that can leave poorer nations saddled with debt.
Countering China is fast becoming a central element of Biden’s foreign policy, despite extensive trade ties and hopes for cooperation to combat climate change and other priorities.
But some of the leaders Biden is seeing for the annual G-7 session are less eager to prod Beijing over its labor practices. It was not clear whether Biden could persuade them to fully back his proposal to call out China for its use of forced labor, including of the Uyghur ethnic and religious minority.
China the spectre at the feast as Biden aims to rally democracies on Europe trip
(The Guardian) The US president has become convinced that Beijing is the main adversary in a global battle of governance systems
Before setting out on his first foreign trip as president, Biden has made clear that the competition between the world’s democracies and its authoritarian regimes – mostly importantly Beijing – is the defining global challenge of the age, with victory anything but guaranteed for the US and its allies.

7 June
Senate Poised to Pass Huge Industrial Policy Bill to Counter China
The broad support for the bill highlights how competition with Beijing is one of the few issues that can still unite both political parties.
(NYT) Faced with an urgent competitive threat from China, the Senate is poised to pass the most expansive industrial policy legislation in U.S. history, blowing past partisan divisions over government support for private industry to embrace a nearly quarter-trillion-dollar investment in building up America’s manufacturing and technological edge.
The legislation, which could be voted on as early as Tuesday, is expected to pass by a large margin. That alone is a testament to how commercial and military competition with Beijing has become one of the few issues that can unite both political parties.

21 April
Xi to attend Biden’s climate change summit in first meeting of two leaders

14 April
For Biden, China Rivalry Adds Urgency To Infrastructure Push
(NPR) As President Biden and his administration sell a $2 trillion infrastructure plan to Americans, one theme keeps coming up alongside dilapidated bridges, contaminated water pipes and uneven Internet access: competition with China.
When Biden announced the proposal in Pittsburgh, he made sure to argue the measure would put the U.S. “in a position to win the global competition with China in the upcoming years.”
Biden wants the U.S. to spend more money on its physical infrastructure, as well as research and development in emerging technologies, because that’s what China is doing.

31 March
Bloomberg Politics newsletter: When Joe Biden vowed that China wouldn’t displace the U.S. as the most powerful nation on Earth under his watch, it was probably a safe bet.
Even if he runs again in 2024 and and wins another four-year term, the president could leave office just as China overtakes America as the world’s No. 1 economy.
China’s V-shaped recovery from the Covid-19 pandemic has seen it increase its share of global output at the quickest pace this century, possibly surpassing the U.S. in economic terms by 2028 or even two years before that, some economists say.
Under Xi Jinping’s leadership, Beijing has put forward plans to double the size of the economy by 2035 and wants to become the global leader in everything from biotechnology to green energy and artificial intelligence.
The U.S. isn’t taking this lying down. Biden will today unveil a $2.25 trillion proposal to fund transportation, manufacturing, renewable energy and other efforts to combat climate change.
At the same time, he’s tightened measures imposed under Donald Trump to limit China’s access to key technologies such as semiconductors.
In Europe, the promise of vaccine deliveries picking up in the second quarter means that it has a chance to turn the corner and project itself as a third global economic force. But…Europe can’t avoid the great power rivalry between the U.S. and China.
As most of the world struggles to emerge from the pandemic, the competition for supremacy is shifting into high gear. — Karl Maier

22 March
Biden admin sanctions Chinese officials for abuses against Uyghurs
(NBC) The Biden administration Monday announced sanctions against two Chinese government officials over continued human rights abuses against the country’s minority Uyghur population.
The Department of the Treasury sanctions focus on Wang Junzheng, the secretary of the Party Committee of the Xinjiang Production and Construction Corps, and Chen Mingguo, director of the Xinjiang Public Security Bureau.
The sanctions were being imposed in coordination with similar moves by the European Union, the United Kingdom and Canada, the department said.

15-19 March
‘Tough and direct’: U.S. says as talks with China wrap up in Alaska
By Humeyra Pamuk Reuters
(Global news) U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken, standing beside [National security adviser Jake] Sullivan, said he was not surprised that the United States got a “defensive response” from China after it raised its concerns over Chinese human rights abuses in Xinjiang, Tibet, and Hong Kong, as well as over cyberattacks and pressure on Taiwan.
But Blinken said the two sides also had intersecting interests on Iran, North Korea, Afghanistan, and climate change.
… The rebukes played out in front of cameras, but a senior U.S. administration official told reporters that as soon as media had left the room, the two sides “immediately got down to business” and held substantive and direct talks.
The Biden administration gets a taste of China’s ‘wolf warrior’ diplomacy
(WaPo) After Blinken mentioned some of the issues Washington had with Beijing, including “cyberattacks on the United States” and “economic coercion toward our allies,” Yang told him that the United States “can’t blame this problem on somebody else” — turning brief opening remarks into a 16-minute tirade.
For a high-level diplomatic meeting, it was remarkably undiplomatic, shattering any illusions of a reset in U.S.-China relations after the more aggressive U.S. policy during the Trump administration. Indeed, China’s diplomats appeared more forceful than they had been in any public meeting during President Trump’s term, leading to worry on both sides about the state of the relationship.
In First Talks, Dueling Accusations Set Testy Tone for U.S.-China Diplomacy
(NYT) U.S. officials said the two days of discussions would continue, but accused the Chinese delegation of violating the format for meetings that had sought to find common ground between the superpowers.
As Biden and Xi Begin a Careful Dance, a New American Policy Takes Shape
the emerging strategy more directly repudiates the prevailing view of the last quarter century that deep economic interdependence could be counted on to temper fundamental conflicts on issues like China’s military buildup, its territorial ambitions and human rights.
It focuses anew on competing more aggressively with Beijing on technologies vital to long-term economic and military power, after concluding that President Donald J. Trump’s approach — a mix of expensive tariffs, efforts to ban Huawei and TikTok, and accusations about sending the “China virus” to American shores — had failed to change President Xi Jinping’s course.

Bloomberg: When senior Biden administration officials meet this week with their counterparts from China for the first time, they may need a large whiteboard to keep track of the complexities involved.
There are at least half a dozen separate, and competing, factors that will play into the talks.
A big conflicting point, for example, is President Joe Biden’s push for renewable power generation. That collides with his anger over alleged Chinese human-rights abuses in Xinjiang, which happens to be a major supplier of a key component in solar panels.
There are economic imperatives for cooperation (they need each other as markets) but also arguments against cooperation (protecting their own industries, building self-sufficiency in supply chains).
There are political reasons to cooperate, because China has become too big to shut out. There are reasons not to: If nations don’t collectively push back against Beijing’s behavior, there’s no chance to influence its actions.
There are particular imperatives for China, which sees itself as unfairly picked on, while President Xi Jinping needs to sound firm before a big leadership meeting next year. And Biden equally must demonstrate to Congress and American voters he’s tough — and smart — on China.
In Tokyo, Blinken And Austin Work To Revive Asian Alliance To Counter China
(NPR) In Tokyo on Tuesday, Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin put U.S. alliances, and cooperation with allies to counter China’s challenges to U.S. primacy, at the center of the Biden administration’s foreign policy in its first Cabinet-level trip abroad.
China, North Korea top agenda as Blinken begins first Asian tour
First Quad Summit Takes on China, Diplomacy over LAC Friction
1) First ever Quad summit takes on China over vaccine push
– Leaders of the four Quad countries – India, US, Japan and Australia met for the first time at the summit level and described it as “historic”.
This summit meeting was hosted by the US and came after over thirteen years [since] the idea of the Quad first came about in 2007.

Gwynne Dyer: The Quad awakes – round up the usual suspects
Creeping shyly onto the stage via Zoom, the successor to Nato emerged into public view last Friday.
It’s called the Quadrilateral Security Dialogue – the “Quad”, for short. It’s intended to be to China what Nato (the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation) was to the old Soviet Union: an alliance to deter and contain the “evil regime”, now located in Beijing, until it finally collapses.
Most of the “usual suspects” (the other Nato members) also want to join the team as players, or at least as substitutes: a Canadian warship sailed through the Taiwan Strait in January, and Britain, France, Germany and the Netherlands will all deploy warships to the Indo-Pacific region later in the year.
Is “Nato in Asia” really getting ready for another decades-long cold war and/or a possible hot war? Every nuclear weapons power except Israel and perhaps Russia would be part of this confrontation, and there are many more potential flash-points in the Asia-Pacific region than there ever were in Europe.
Ryan Hass: Biden builds bridges to contend with Beijing
(Brookings) Ryan Hass writes that the Biden administration’s approach to China reflects the acknowledgement that America must build ‘situations of strength’ with like-minded nations to respond to challenges posed by rival powers—a subtle but significant departure from the Trump approach to China. This piece originally appeared in the East Asia Forum.

12 March
‘Quad’ leaders pledge new cooperation on China, COVID-19, climate
US, India, Japan and Australia plot vaccine drive for Indo-Pacific, seek to counter China’s influence, and plan an in-person summit.
(Al Jazeera) Leaders of the United States, India, Japan and Australia, convened by US President Joe Biden in a first virtual summit of the ‘Quad’ group of countries, pledged to work together to counter China’s rising influence in the Indo-Pacific and cooperate on COVID-19 and climate.
The leaders discussed challenges posed by China and focused on pressing global crises including climate change and the coronavirus pandemic, said US National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan
Why Joe Biden’s Quad summit is unlikely to find consensus on containing China
C. Uday Bhaskar
Domestic sociopolitical imperatives and pandemic recovery will blunt Quad members’ larger strategic choices in relation to dealing with the China challenge
Engagement with China in certain domains, while offering resistance in others, requires a policy suppleness that might prove elusive

(SCMP) The first virtual summit of the Quad nations will take place on March 12, bringing together the leaders of four democracies: the United States, Japan, India and Australia.
This will also be the first summit meetingfor US President Joe Biden and indicative of the importance being accorded to the Indo-Pacific by the new White House inhabitant. Biden will engage with Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison. It is instructive, given the complex geopolitics of the region, that the Quad summit follows China’s annual “two sessions” parliamentary meetings, which began in Beijing on March 4 and ended on March 11. In the run-up to the meetings, President Xi Jinping asserted that “the biggest source of chaos in the present-day world is the United States” and added that the US “is the biggest threat to our country’s development and security”.
Advocating collective action by like-minded democratic nations is the subtext of the Biden plan to deal with the China challenge. So it seems likely that the Quad summit will seek to formalise a tentative blueprint towards this objective. … Quad nations’ domestic sociopolitical imperatives will blunt their larger strategic choices when it comes to dealing with the China challenge. On current evidence, an unambiguous consensus on how to contain China is unlikely to emerge. This kind of hedging is discernible even in the White House’s interim guidance document.

25 February
As genocide accusations grow, China hits back
(Politico China Watcher) We start with “genocide.” That’s what the Trump administration and Secretary of State Antony Blinken have labeled the mass detention and forced sterilization of Uighurs and other Muslim minorities in China’s far western region of Xinjiang. It’s a politically loaded, legally complex and narrative-shaping word — and at the U.N. Human Rights Council earlier this week, Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi hit back, stating “there has never been so-called genocide.”
… On Wednesday, it was Secretary of State Antony Blinken’s turn to speak at the U.N. council, where he signaled the U.S.’s return to the body. While not addressing China or genocide directly, Blinken asserted that “those with the worst human rights records should not be members of this council.”
Here’s the tricky thing. In the U.S., State Department lawyers have determined the evidence points to crimes against humanity, falling short of genocide.
The Economist has also argued against the assignation of genocide. That’s led to push back — including from legal scholar Donald Clarke in a cogent rebuttal, and Elizabeth M. Lynch of China Law and Policy, who accuses the magazine of misogyny and ignoring “clear legal doctrine,” adding that “the systematic rape of women has repeatedly been found to constitute the physical element of genocide.” The legal debate is far from settled, however, meaning the genocide label will remain a controversial issue.
Whether China’s systematic repression of the Uighurs is deemed a “genocide” determines policy. It also puts social pressure on corporations — making it that much harder for them to do business with China when they have to engage with that label. Beijing might push back at the U.N., but if more governments decide it is carrying out genocide, it will be an indelible stain on China’s historical record. The question now is how much traction there’ll be in the coming months for other countries to place that label on China’s actions in Xinjiang.

18 February
Chris Patten: Biden’s Good Start on China
With US President Joe Biden restoring American support for multilateralism and international partnerships, the world’s democracies should be better placed to halt the Chinese government’s bullying. But China should be welcomed when it is prepared to be constructive on issues like climate change and antimicrobial resistance.
(Project Syndicate) So far, three encouraging developments stand out, suggesting that the United States will regard the huge, Leninist surveillance state not just as a competitor, but as a determined threat to all free societies.
For starters, Secretary of State Antony Blinken has said that the Chinese communist regime is committing genocide against Muslim Uighurs in the northwestern province of Xinjiang. Moreover, Biden’s national security adviser, Jake Sullivan, has highlighted China’s failure to cooperate fully with the World Health Organization mission investigating the origins of the coronavirus in Wuhan and perhaps elsewhere in the country. If the Communist Party of China (CPC) has nothing to hide, why has it refused to be open about the source of the pandemic?Lastly, and most important, Biden himself has made clear his determination to work with partners to confront global problems. The CPC certainly falls into that category.

1 February
Myanmar Crisis Sets Stage for Biden-Xi Duel
(Bloomberg) Aung San Suu Kyi, who rose to power after being held under house arrest for years, saw her reputation as an icon of democracy plummet as a result of her government’s actions against journalists and defense of “genocide” allegations against the military for its treatment of Muslim Rohingya. Questions over her leadership kept many Western countries from investing in Myanmar, which saw growth rates tail off in recent years.
Now calls are growing for Biden to reimpose sanctions in response to the coup, setting the stage for the country’s generals to become more reliant on China, Myanmar’s biggest trading partner by far.
But it may not be so simple: The U.S. has sought to improve ties in the region with other autocracies if they help act as a buffer to China — most notably Vietnam.
Chinese President Xi Jinping appears set for an immediate geopolitical win.

28 January
To Counter China’s Rise, the U.S. Should Focus on Xi
A proposal for a full reboot of American strategy toward China.
Anonymous – The author is a former senior government official with deep expertise and experience dealing with China.
In 1946, the American diplomat George Kennan wrote a lengthy cable to Washington—since dubbed the “Long Telegram”—laying out the basis for the next several decades of U.S. policy toward the Soviet Union. He published his work as an article under the simple pseudonym “X.” In that spirit, a former senior government official with deep expertise and experience dealing with China has published with the Atlantic Council a bold and ambitious new U.S. strategy toward its next great global rival. It is similarly delivered anonymously, which the author requested, and POLITICO granted. Here the author describes the broad outlines of the strategy. The full memo is available here.
China under Xi, unlike under previous leaders Deng Xiaoping, Jiang Zemin and Hu Jintao, is no longer a status quo power. It has become what the international-relations world calls a revisionist power, a state bent on changing the world around it. For the United States, its allies and the US-led liberal international order, this represents a fundamental shift. Xi is no longer just a problem for U.S. primacy. He now presents a serious challenge to the whole of the democratic world.
… Of all the elements commonly missing from discussions of U..S strategy toward China so far, this sharper focus on the internal fault lines within the Chinese leadership is the most critical. While U.S. leaders often differentiate between China’s Communist Party government and the Chinese people, Washington must achieve the sophistication necessary to go even further, differentiating between the government and the party elite, as well as between the party elite in general and Xi Jinping personally. This becomes increasingly important as more moderate potential successors to Xi being to emerge.

25 January
China-US tensions: new American defence chief calls on Japan and South Korea to team up in Indo-Pacific
Soon after being sworn in, US Secretary of Defence Lloyd Austin calls for Asian allies to strengthen military ties
American maritime manoeuvres in the South China Sea continue despite change of administration in the US
(SCMP) Austin, who was sworn in on Friday, did not name China but said the US opposed “any unilateral attempts to change the status quo in the East China Sea” and reaffirmed to his Japanese counterpart Nobuo Kishi that the US military would respond to any attack on the Senkaku Islands under the US-Japan security treaty. The Senkakus are uninhabited islets in the East China Sea controlled by Japan but claimed by China and known as the Diaoyu Islands in Chinese.
While Austin is believed to lack experience in the Indo-Pacific, he has pledged to focus strategically on China and Asia. In his confirmation hearing last week he said mending alliances and focusing strategically on China would be high on his agenda.
Military tensions between China and the US have continued to rise in the first few days of the Biden administration. On Saturday, the US Indo-Pacific Command said a US aircraft carrier group led by the USS Theodore Roosevelt entered the South China Sea where it was “conducting maritime security operations, which include flight operations with fixed and rotary-wing aircraft, maritime strike exercises and coordinated tactical training between surface and air units”.
Getting the China challenge right
David Dollar and Ryan Hass
(Brookings) The Trump administration had an incoherent and inconsistent policy toward China that failed to deliver on its promises. An alternative response to the China challenge would require taking four critical steps. First, the United States must strengthen its own economy through reforms and investments that are beyond the scope of this paper but are detailed elsewhere in Brookings’s Blueprints for American Renewal & Prosperity. Second, the U.S. should work with allies in Asia and Europe to push China to continue opening its economy and developing 21st century rules for new aspects of trade. Chinese trade is more important to our allies than it is to the American economy. So while it will be tempting to try to decouple from China, decoupling is a losing strategy down the road since America’s partners would not follow suit, and the U.S. would end up isolated. Third, the U.S. needs to counter China’s assertiveness with its neighbors through a strong military presence and call out China for its undermining and violations of international rules and norms. Fourth, the U.S. needs to work with China on issues where there is common interest, especially on climate change, global public health, support to poor countries, and nuclear nonproliferation. What makes the relationship especially complicated is the need to work closely with China on some issues while countering it in other domains. For the United States, China is a partner, competitor, and challenger all at the same time.

Xi Jinping sends a warning to the US at Davos
(Quartz) Today (Jan. 25), Xi addressed Davos once again, but this time on video. He brought up some of the same themes from his 2017 speech, including multilateralism and climate change. Without mentioning Trump by name, Xi criticized the former US president’s trade war with China. And without naming the US or Joe Biden, he predicted that a conflict between Beijing and Washington would be bad for everyone.
Xi called for global collaboration on climate change, public health, technology, and saving the global economy. China is in pole position to lead on some of these issues. It recently made an ambitious pledge to become carbon-neutral by 2060, and its economy is recovering much faster than others: It grew 2.3% in 2020, the only major economy to do so, and is expected to expand 7.9% this year.
He said international institutions, including the World Health Organization, should be strengthened, and called for more collaboration on vaccines and help for developing nations. And he warned other countries not to “meddle” in China’s affairs, a phrase often used to describe international condemnation of Beijing’s actions in Hong Kong, Xinjiang, Taiwan, or Tibet.
In a key reference to the US and its allies’ responses to China, Xi said that “to build small circles, or…willfully impose decoupling, supply disruption, or sanctions…will only push the world into division and even confrontation.” (The Trump administration sanctioned officials in Hong Kong, while Biden has expressed support for a club of democracies that includes India, South Korea, and Australia.)

21 January
Bloomberg politics:
On the surface, Beijing is saying warm things about U.S. President Joe Biden’s administration, of “win-win” cooperation that smooths out the natural differences the two powers will have. It’s a brutal contrast to its commentary on the prior administration now Donald Trump is out the door.
President Xi Jinping is likely to talk a lot about globalization and collaboration when he addresses a virtual Davos summit of world leaders next week.
China may genuinely want a reset. But its rhetoric also carries a warning to Biden: Things got bad under Trump, and we expect you to fix it.
Take the move to sanction senior Trump-era officials, including former Secretary of State Michael Pompeo, right as Biden was inaugurated. It’s not about preventing Pompeo holidaying in Macau, but a marker that Beijing will strike back if the U.S. keeps criticizing it for its crackdown in Hong Kong and treatment of Uighur Muslims in Xinjiang.
The narrative on Xinjiang is particularly sensitive, with Twitter blocking the Chinese embassy in the U.S. for a post that defended policies in the region.
Biden is unlikely to be too obliging. If anything, the Democrats will escalate the critiques – a senior official has already backed an assessment that what’s happening in Xinjiang is genocide.
Even if things are more collegial on issues like climate change and the pandemic, Biden needs to show Americans and Congress he’s also standing up to Beijing, while Xi, heading towards a crucial party meeting next year, can’t afford to be seen as weak at home.
The next few weeks are likely to set the tone. – Rosalind Mathieson

13 January
Biden’s pick for top Asia official should reassure nervous allies
(WaPo) Joe Biden plans to soon announce a new Asia-related position inside the National Security Council and has chosen former State Department official Kurt Campbell to fill it.
Campbell has a high profile in the region, extensive diplomatic experience, well-honed bureaucratic skills and good relationships on Capitol Hill, all of which suggest he will have real influence over the administration’s strategy.
Campbell, one of the most senior Asia hands in the Democratic foreign policy ranks, last served in government as assistant secretary of state for East Asian and Pacific affairs under Hillary Clinton. … Since 2013, Campbell has served as chairman and chief executive of the Asia Group, a consultancy he founded.
Biden Makes His First Bold Move on Asia
(Foreign Policy) The appointment of Kurt Campbell as Biden’s right hand on Asia will supercharge the incoming administration’s policy to counter China.
How America Can Shore Up Asian Order
A Strategy for Restoring Balance and Legitimacy
By Kurt M. Campbell and Rush Doshi
2 December 2020
Biden adviser Campbell sees China’s Asia trade focus as ‘wake-up call’
(Reuters) Campbell said he had been a big supporter of the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade agreement that Washington negotiated under Obama and from which Trump quickly withdrew, but added:
“I do think that it’s going to be difficult to lead from the outset with a new initiative or a new way … I’m not currently believing that that’s something that anyone could anticipate or think about out of the gate of any administration.”
Campbell nevertheless stressed that China’s recent signing of a 15-nation Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) – the world’s largest free trade bloc – and interest in joining the TPP, “should be a real wake up call for us.”
He said Washington’s “ticket to the big game” was the U.S. military presence and its ability to deter challenges to the current “operating system” – a reference to China’s bid to establish itself as the dominant regional power.
But it also had to demonstrate a vision for “an optimistic, open trading system” and this meant working with allies and denying China access to areas where it was necessary maintain a cutting edge, such as artificial intelligence, robotics or 5G.

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