Friend or foe and China’s rivalry with the United States
President Xi’s comments fail to bridge the gulf that exists between Beijing and Washington
Xi Jinping turned up as a “Wolf Warrior” in sheep’s clothing for his three-and-a-half-hour virtual chat with Joe Biden.
He greeted the United States president as an “old friend,” or lao peng you, during his Monday night summit. Probably, an ironic touch.
Back in June, Biden had bristled when asked by the media about his “friendship” with the Chinese President.
“Let’s get something straight: We know each other well; we’re not old friends. It’s just pure business,” he said at the time, and nothing has changed.
In the past five years, Xi has ramped up the political rhetoric with hardline “Wolf Warrior” diplomacy taking root inside Beijing’s corridors of power.
“As I’ve said before, it seems to me our responsibility as leaders of China and the United States is to ensure that the competition between our countries does not veer into conflict, whether intended or unintended,” Biden told the general secretary of the Communist Party of China from the Roosevelt Room.
- The online talks covered nearly every aspect of US-China relations.
- Washington complained of “unfair trade and economic practices.”
- Biden also raised concerns about China’s human rights record.
- High on the list were allegations that at least one million Uighur Muslims have been detained in internment camps in China’s autonomous region of Xinjiang.
- The suppression of protests in Hong Kong and the jailing of democracy activists were also on the agenda.
- So was rising military tension in the South China Sea and Xi’s threat to take democratic Taiwan by force if necessary.
Friend or foe? Defusing the ticking time bomb that hangs over the democratic island has become the overriding issue for Beijing.
Playing with fire: “Any support for Taiwanese independence would be like playing with fire. Those who play with fire will get burned,” China’s state media reported about Xi’s stand at the summit.
Common sense: “It seems we need to establish common-sense guardrails. To be clear and honest where we disagree, and work together where interests intersect,” Biden pointed out.
World peace: “We should shoulder our share of international responsibilities and work together for the cause of world peace and development,” Xi was quoted as saying.
Rule of law: “[W]e believe all countries have to play by the same rules of the road, and why the United States is always going to stand up for our interests and values and those of our allies and partners,” Biden told Xi.
Rule of our law: “Economic and trade issues between the two countries should not be politicized,” Xi responded as reported by the official Xinhua News Agency.
Human rights: “[We] will discuss those areas where we have concerns, from human rights to economics to ensuring a free and open Indo-Pacific,” Biden said.
Mind your own business: “China does not approve of using human rights to meddle in [our] internal affairs,” Xi was quoted as saying.
Delve deeper: Last month, Taiwan’s President Tsai Ing-wen warned the island was on the “front line” in the fight for democracy, insisting the threat from China grows “every day.” Tsai told CNN television she remained open to talks with Xi even though Beijing considers the island a renegade province.
Big picture: “We weren’t expecting a breakthrough. There were none to report. This was about developing open lines of communication,” a White House insider said, according to media reports.
China Factor comment: The big question now is whether Beijing’s relationship with Washington will change in the months ahead? In short: No.