Thu. Sep 29th, 2022

ST HSIEH

May 20, 2022

The following report that Biden and Xi will talk in coming weeks certainly is good news. In fact, it sounds a bit “abnormal” that such a talk is suggested by US National Security Advisor on Air Force One. US and China are the two largest economies in the world, there is no reason that the leaders do not confer often without any precondition. Especially, the world today is suffering more than two years unprecedented COVID-19 pandemic as well as Russia-Ukraine war with no end in sight. The global economy is slowing down, and recession is almost inevitable!

It is clear that the core issue between the US and China is ideological rifts, which in turn is because there is lack for trust, even worse the two great nations are suspect that “they” are plotting a total demise of “us” day and night. There are many reasons for this animosity, historical, cultural, profits…But it is time that some joint efforts are focused on confidence-building rather than a full-force competition in almost every issue. For example, in terms of Ukraine war, there is just no serious effort to forcing a cease fire. China is a potential peace maker, even Ukrainians openly called Xi to mediate. Unfortunately, it appears that US and EU view Ukraine war is their domain so other parties have to be 100% against their common enemy: Russia. However, Ukraine war is causing global energy price spike and visible EU economy slowdown that eventually will cause global recession and no one can afford.

Taiwan is unique and there is no parallel with Ukraine. Even Russian and Ukraine share some common heritages, but they do not use the same language, people in mainland China and in Taiwan are exactly the same people: they use same language! There are millions of people for Taiwan making a living in mainland and enjoy almost identical privileges as mainlanders if they apply for residence permit. Taiwan enjoys significant trade surplus against mainland China. If there is a major conflict cross Taiwan strait, Beijing can simply stop the trade then force reconciliations.

Biden is visiting South Korea and Japan now to assure US allies in Indo-Pacific that he is a global leader. But he has not announced his China strategy yet, he will have to make up his mind on China very soon. The latest public opinion poll release today is bad news for Biden: his domestic approval rating is down to a new record of 39%! The US mid-term election is closing in day by day.

China-US relations: Xi Jinping and Joe Biden expected to talk again soon

Fri, May 20, 2022, 2:30 AM

The Chinese and American presidents are expected to talk again soon, according to a top White House official.

“I wouldn’t be surprised if, in the coming weeks, President [Joe] Biden and President Xi [Jinping] speak again,” said US National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan aboard Air Force One on Thursday, without elaborating.

Sullivan, who spoke to Xi’s top foreign policy aide Yang Jiechi over the phone on Wednesday, is accompanying Biden on his first Asian trip as president.

It would be Xi’s third direct contact with Biden since the US leader took office in January last year. Both virtual summits, in November and in March respectively, were preceded by talks between Yang and Sullivan.

Summit diplomacy, which played a key role in stabilising the complex US-China relationship in the past, has largely failed to temper down rising tensions arising from geopolitical and ideological rifts over issues such as Taiwan, Hong Kong, Xinjiang and the war in Ukraine.

During their first meeting in November, Xi managed to secure Biden’s commitment not to support Taiwanese independence, while the US leader sought to establish “common-sense guardrails” to avoid tensions flaring into military conflict.

Expectations for a temporary detente were also low in the lead-up to the pair’s second meeting in March, which was overshadowed by China’s refusal to condemn Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

Few observers believe the upcoming summit, which is expected to occur after Biden wraps up his six-day visit to South Korea and Japan, will yield any breakthroughs considering the deepening trust deficit.

Russia’s attack on Ukraine has exposed a geopolitical fault-line that threatens to split the world between China and the US.

While Biden is expected to focus on North Korea’s nuclear threats and China’s ambivalence on the Ukraine crisis, Xi is likely to express Beijing’s frustration about America’s support for Taiwan and its building of anti-Chinese bloc in the Indo-Pacific.

Beijing is now looking at the Biden administration’s Indo-Pacific strategy through the lens of Cold War hostilities, according to George Magnus, a research associate at Oxford University’s China Centre, who said the two sides were focusing on getting Asian countries to align with them.

“Biden’s visit is an attempt to strengthen alliances and ties in the face of what is now the defining geopolitical rivalry of our time, between the US and the political West, and China,” he said.

“It will doubtless exacerbate the most hostile external environment China has faced since the Mao [Zedong] era, and that is patently not good for a country that has depended on engagement and openness for four decades of economic success and political heft.”

Benoit Hardy-Chartrand, an international affairs specialist at Temple University in Tokyo, said Biden’s Asian trip was crucial for the regional geopolitical political landscape.

“The US President is keen to show that despite all the attention deservedly paid to the war in Ukraine, he will not waver in his focus on the Indo-Pacific,” he said.

A successful trip, according to Hardy-Chartrand, would lead to even greater alignment between the US and Japan and could also bring the new conservative administration in South Korea further within the American orbit, after former president Moon Jae-in spent five years trying not to antagonise China.

“Therefore, if Washington has its way, this trip could result in an even greater gap between China and the US,” he said.

Beijing said it would “closely watch” Biden’s visit and urged the US and its allies not to “target or harm the interest of third parties”.

Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi did not mince his words during talks with his Japanese counterpart Yoshimasa Hayashi on Wednesday, accusing Tokyo and Washington of “joining hands to confront China” and playing the Taiwan card.

Zhiqun Zhu, a professor of international relations at Bucknell University, said Taiwan was the issue most likely to ignite a conflict between China and the US.

He noted despite Washington’s pledges to honour its long-standing one-China policy, the Biden administration has increased arms sales and official exchanges with the island and stepped up efforts to obtain observer status for Taiwan at the World Health Organization.

“[Such moves] have added to Beijing’s concerns that Washington is hollowing out ‘one China’ and backtracking on commitments to Beijing on this most sensitive and critical issue between the two countries,” he said.

“Beijing seems not in a hurry to resolve the Taiwan issue now. More haste, less speed. But it seems like Washington is goading Beijing to fire the first shot in the Taiwan Strait. This is a worrisome trend and development.”

Yun Sun, a senior fellow at the Stimson Center in Washington, said Beijing’s stern warning regarding Taiwan underlined its wariness that Biden’s Asia trip may hurt China’s national security interests.

“On Taiwan, the Chinese are exasperated by the US ‘salami-slicing’ but cannot figure out an effective way to stop the US from inching further,” she said. “We are at a stalemate on Taiwan.”

According to Sun, North Korea and Ukraine are probably what Beijing perceives to be its leverage, as Beijing would want reciprocity for anything the US wants China to do on North Korea and Ukraine.

Sullivan said his talks with Yang on Wednesday were focused on “our concerns about North Korea’s nuclear and missile activities and our view that this is not in China’s interests.”

While Beijing’s frustration about Washington’s encirclement effort was largely understandable, Hardy-Chartrand said China’s rhetoric was unlikely to move the dial in any direction.

“The current joint posture of the US and Japan doesn’t represent a departure from what we have been used to, although it has certainly hardened in recent years. Thus, China is essentially offering a warning to the US and Japan that their continued emphasis on Taiwan, among other issues, will only result in greater instability and tensions,” he said.

China has also concerns about the imminent launch of Biden’s signature regional trade initiative – the Indo-Pacific Economic Framework – a move aimed at countering China’s economic clout in the region.

Despite high-level exchanges, including at the top leadership level, Magnus said “no one should be under any illusion that Xi’s China is about to make a course correction“.

He said: “In fact, it is more likely to double down on its current policies. We can only wonder what other senior officials in the party might be thinking about this mounting pile of problems ahead of the 20th party congress, and if Chinese politics are now reaching back to uncertainties that erupted almost half a century ago.”

Trade, nukes and Taiwan: What to expect as Biden travels to Asia

Alexander Nazaryan Senior White House Correspondent

Thu, May 19, 2022, 1:45 PM

WASHINGTON — One of President Biden’s favorite stories is about the thousands of miles he traveled with Chinese leader Xi Jinping, back when they were their respective nations’ vice presidents. “I’ve spent a lot of time with Xi Jinping — they tell me more than any other world leader has,” he said when he told the story at a Democratic Party fundraiser earlier this month.

The story has many purposes, among them a reminder that Biden, who served on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee before becoming vice president, has — at least in his own estimation — a deep understanding of East Asia, of the threats posed by communist China and despotic North Korea, and of the possibilities of cooperating with Japan and South Korea, among other nations, on security and trade.

Biden’s expertise in Asian affairs will be put to the test when he travels to Japan and South Korea this week, his first trip to the continent as president.

Here are three key developments to watch for.

How much influence does the United States retain in East Asia?

For the last several months, Biden has marshaled support for the U.S.-led effort to bolster Ukraine as it defends itself against an unprovoked Russian invasion. Before leaving for Asia on Thursday, he welcomed the leaders of Finland and Sweden to the White House, endorsing their application to join NATO.

Now he is heading to a region where U.S. power is viewed much more ambiguously, and, in the case of North Korea, with outright hostility. “We think this trip is going to put on full display President Biden’s Indo-Pacific strategy,” national security adviser Jake Sullivan told reporters on Wednesday, “and that it will show, in living color, that the United States can at once lead the free world in responding to Russia’s war in Ukraine and at the same time chart a course for effective, principled American leadership and engagement in a region that will define much of the future of the 21st century.”

Biden has tried to restore the order shredded by former President Donald Trump, who pulled the United States out of the Trans-Pacific Partnership and openly expressed his fond regard for the North Korean leader, Kim Jong Un. He started a trade war with China and later accused Beijing of concealing the origins of the coronavirus, which many in his administration thought to have originated in a laboratory in the city of Wuhan (it is more likely to have come from a wildlife market there, although this has still not been definitively resolved).

“I think there is a lot of support for U.S. engagement in the region,” says Eric Altbach, a senior vice president at the Albright Stonebridge Group who served in the State Department and the White House as a foreign policy expert under Presidents Bill Clinton and George W. Bush.

Trump’s withdrawal from the TPP “undercut our credibility in a major way,” Altbach told Yahoo News in a phone interview. “The United States has had nothing meaningful to offer until now.”

Biden has thus far kept Trump’s tariffs on Chinese goods in place, in what could be seen as recognition that he shares his predecessor’s view that the communist superpower poses the greatest threat to U.S. geopolitical influence. But he has also sought to draw other Asian nations to his side, in contrast to Trump’s renegade approach.

Last year, Biden signed a new security agreement, the Australia-United Kingdom-United States Partnership (AUKUS), under which nuclear submarines sold by the U.S. and the United Kingdom to Australia will sail in the Pacific from a new base that Australia plans to build on its eastern coast.

“We need to be able to address both the current strategic environment in the region and how it will evolve, because the future of each of our nations, and indeed the world, depends on a free and open Indo-Pacific, enduring and flourishing in the decades ahead,” Biden said last September as the tripartite agreement was unveiled.

Although China wasn’t mentioned once by any of the three AUKUS nation leaders in their accompanying remarks, there was little doubt that the new agreement was meant as a bulwark against Beijing. In response, China recently signed a security agreement with the Solomon Islands, citing the need to confront what it described as Western aggression.

“Australia, together with the U.S. and the U.K., is forming a military bloc and provoking an arms race in the South Pacific, without any consultations with island countries of the region,” a Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman, Zhao Lijian, said.

Trade constitutes another American effort to reassert dominance in East Asia, in a bid to reverse what has been described as its steady “decoupling” from Western economies in the region.

Earlier this month, Biden hosted a summit with Southeast Asian leaders, announcing a bevy of new investments that signaled a reengagement that experts and elected leaders welcomed but considered probably insufficient.

“In the end, the summit went well,” wrote one Australian foreign policy expert, Susannah Patton. “But context matters, and overall, the U.S. continues to lose influence to China in Southeast Asia.”

While in Japan, Biden will unveil the Indo-Pacific Economic Framework, which Sullivan described on Wednesday as a “new model designed to tackle new economic challenges — from setting the rules of the digital economy to ensuring secure and resilient supply chains, to managing the energy transition, to investing in clean, modern, high-standards infrastructure.”

How will North Korea greet Biden?

In 2019, Donald Trump became the first U.S. president to visit North Korea. Biden will not be making such a foray, but even as he continues to see China as a primary long-term threat, the unpredictable and secretive regime in Pyongyang poses a danger of its own.

On Wednesday, South Korea’s deputy national security official, Kim Tae-hyo, said North Korea was preparing to greet Biden’s visit to the Korean Peninsula with a troubling gesture.

“Preparations for launching missiles, including intercontinental ballistic missiles, are understood to be imminent,” Kim said. While such a test could be seen as mere bluster, it is also a reminder that North Korea remains a problem that no American president has successfully resolved.

“If North Korea conducts a long-range missile or nuclear test during Biden’s Seoul visit, it clearly marks a deliberate provocation aimed at extorting concessions from Washington,” a South Korean expert on North Korean affairs told the Washington Post.

“I don’t think there’s any question that North Korea has grown increasingly frustrated at its inability to force the U.S. back to the negotiation table on terms favorable to North Korea,” Altbach of Albright Stonebridge told Yahoo News, referring to the diplomatic negotiations with the nuclear power that unraveled during the Trump administration.

North Korea is also experiencing what it says are its first COVID-19 cases, although observers believe the closed nation simply concealed earlier outbreaks. Whatever the case, a public announcement of positive cases could signal a humanitarian crisis in the works, given the lack of medical infrastructure and no vaccinations whatever.

Human Rights Watch has called on Biden and his South Korean counterpart, Yoon Suk Yeol, to put aside their nuclear concerns and work through international bodies like the United Nations to “encourage North Korea to accept offers of monitored deliveries of food, medicine, vaccines, and the infrastructure to preserve and distribute vaccines.”

So far, Pyongyang has rebuffed offers of aid.

What is the future of Taiwan?

The historically fraught status of Taiwan offers a parallel in East Asia to the tensions that led Russia to invade Ukraine. Since 1949, China has viewed the island — which is separated from the mainland by 100 miles of water — as under the purview of Beijing.

Taiwan, however, has an independence movement that China views as a threat. The gunman who attacked a Taiwanese church in Southern California last Sunday is believed to have acted out of “hatred of the Taiwanese people” and their desire for independence, according to law enforcement officials.

Russian President Vladimir Putin’s invasion of Ukraine has made some China analysts worry that it could embolden Beijing to invade Taiwan, effectively ending any possibility of independence for the island.

Hours before Biden and Xi, the Chinese leader, spoke in March about the situation in Ukraine, a Chinese aircraft carrier sailed through the Taiwan Strait in what could only be interpreted as a reminder to Washington. A U.S. guided missile destroyer “shadowed the carrier at least partly on its route,” Reuters reported.

“The ultimate goal of reunification with Taiwan is one of the top priorities of Chinese leaders,” Altbach told Yahoo News. “I don’t think the travails of the Russians in Ukraine are a direct corollary to the challenges [Chinese leaders] would face in Taiwan.”

The White House has insisted that Biden respects Chinese claims on Taiwan, but the delicate balance on the issue could easily be upset, especially by a provocation on China’s part. Earlier this month, the New York Times reported that the United States appeared to be preparing for the possibility of such an aggressive move and was persuading Taiwan to purchase weapons that could repel a Chinese invasion of the island.

“There has been this wake-up call in the Pentagon to make sure Taiwan is serious,” China expert Bonnie S. Glasser told the Times, “and we need to get serious too.”

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