Sat. May 18th, 2024

Prof. ST Hsieh

Director, US-China Energy Industry Forum

626-376-7460

[email protected]

March 7, 2023

There is no denial that the US-China relation is so bad that it needs a re-set. Fortunately, so far, only harsh words have been exchanged but no strong or direct actions yet.

It is important to recognize that China’s messages have been consistent as well as clear. Of course, foreign China experts are always able to read the tea leaf for the public. There is no need to second guess about China’s bottom lines. Further, China is not counting on anyone, especially the US, to agree with or like their core policy anymore.

On the other hand, the US as a proud democracy with freedom of speech, almost anyone who cares can state his/her positions on China. It is desirable that US sends more disciplined messages to China.

Diplomacy is not effectively conducted via public statements only. Diplomats need to sit down and discuss in private.

U.S., China Plunge Further Into a Spiral of Hostilities After tiptoeing toward a rapprochement, any fence-mending now has been postponed

By James T. Areddy and Charles Hutzler March 7, 2023 7:03 pm ET

Harsh new verbal attacks on the U.S. by Beijing’s top leadership demonstrate just how unsteady relations have become between the world’s two major powers.

Just a few weeks ago, China and the U.S. were tiptoeing toward something akin to a diplomatic cease-fire. President Biden’s envoy was due in Beijing to craft a possible framework for high-level government-to-government dialogues and stabilize ties after years of bitterness. 

Then, a suspected Chinese surveillance balloon was detected crossing North America, casting a new shadow over relations. The fence-mending trip was postponed and relations between the two powers have plunged further into a spiral of recrimination and tension.

This week, China’s leader, Xi Jinping, and his foreign minister accused Washington of suppressing China’s development and driving the two countries toward conflict.

“Everything the other side does is seen as negative and done with evil intention,” said Suisheng Zhao, a China foreign-policy specialist at the University of Denver. “That is the Cold War mentality.”

China’s leader, Mr. Xi, elevated the rhetorical tension with an accusation straight out of that bygone era, a breakdown both sides insist they don’t want. China, Mr. Xi charged, faces “all-around containment, encirclement and suppression” at the hands of Western nations in league with the U.S. 

On Tuesday, his new foreign minister, Qin Gang, followed up with a warning that unless the U.S. changes course “there will surely be conflict and confrontation.”

A spokesman for the National Security Council, John Kirby, when asked about the rhetoric from Beijing, said the Biden administration policy is unchanged: It seeks competition with China, not conflict. 

“There is nothing about our approach to this most consequential of bilateral relationships that should lead anybody to think that we want conflict,” he told reporters Tuesday. “We absolutely want to keep it at that level.” 

The breadth of discord in U.S.-China ties, however, shows the difficulties in constraining tensions. The Biden administration has continued Trump-era trade tariffs, sharpened controls on exports of advanced semiconductors and rallied allies and other countries to counter China’s influence around the world. 

Beijing has drawn closer to Moscow, including during its war on Ukraine, and stepped up military provocations against Taiwan, while last summer cutting off more of the few channels for U.S. dialogue that had existed, including military-to-military exchanges.

The comments about encirclement demonstrate a Mr. Xi “unchained” by the political season and echo a long tradition by Communist Party officials of positioning China as a victim, said Michael Auslin, a historian at Stanford University’s Hoover Institution. What is relevant is that China is militarily powerful today and Mr. Xi seems to be saying, according to Mr. Auslin, that “they have pushed us into it [but] weren’t not going to shrink from the challenge.”  

Much of the rhetoric from both governments appears designed for their domestic audiences. 

Mr. Xi delivered his suppression comments to a legislative advisory body packed with politically connected business leaders who are grappling with the worst economic outlook in 25 years, including a 5% expansion in gross domestic product. 

For the U.S., the balloon incursion showed a brazenness that demanded a tough response, and it served as a lightning rod for congressional Republicans and security hawks from both parties who want Mr. Biden to take a more uncompromising stance toward Beijing.

Last week, hearings in the House took administration officials to task for a range of issues—from stiffening controls on transfers of semiconductors to Chinese companies and banning the Chinese social media app TikTok to punishing Beijing for its export of chemicals to Mexico where they are being used to make fentanyl. Next, congress is gearing up to put pressure on U.S. corporations with investments in China.

“This is an existential struggle over what life will look like in the 21st century—and the most fundamental freedoms are at stake,” said Wisconsin Republican Michael Gallagher in opening the first hearing of a new House committee focused on U.S. competition with the Communist Party.

The diplomatic setback makes it harder to improve U.S.-China exchanges, such as visas for more journalists or joint cancer research, while organizing a leadership summit that both countries hope for later this year becomes all the more complex. Meanwhile, nations in Asia and Europe pine for more stable U.S.-China relations that might reduce the political risk of trading with each of the world’s two largest economies—or trying to choose between them.

Asked Monday if conditions were now conducive, State Department spokesman Ned Price told reporters that no plans have been announced for such travel. Mr. Price restated the objectives for Mr. Blinken’s trip in February: that both governments shared aspirations to prevent conflict and stabilize ties. 

“We still have lines of communication with our [China] counterparts,” he said. “We wish we had more and, in some ways, deeper lines of communication.”

Particularly as many senior positions are changing in Mr. Xi’s administration, face-to-face talks are needed by the U.S. to understand how various parts of the government will be run, said a former State Department official, Daniel Russel, who is now vice president for international security and diplomacy at New York-based think tank Asia Society Policy Institute. During a panel discussion this week, he said, “If they wait too long, events are likely to intercede.”

Chinese Foreign Minister Qin Gang tells US to ‘hit the brakes’ as relations continue to deteriorate

Tue, March 7, 2023 at 1:30 AM PST South China Morning Post (SCMP)

There will be catastrophic consequences if the US fails to “hit the brakes” and allows the relationship with China to continue to go downhill, Chinese Foreign Minister Qin Gang warned on Tuesday.

His comments, during his first press conference in his new role, left many observers with the impression that hopes for a quick rapprochement between the two global powers were fading.

He also blamed Washington and its “the unprecedented, rapid interest hikes” for aggravating debt vulnerability in many developing countries and – alluding to claims that China has been providing these countries with loans they cannot repay – added: “China should be the last one to be accused of the so-called debt trap.”

He also warned the US not to cross China’s “red lines” on Taiwan, and said China’s development model could be an alternative to the path followed by Western nations, saying China’s growth was not pursued through “war, colonialism and plunder”.

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