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  • Rovindu Ambagolla

Thursday World Politics >>> Hope for Joe Biden’s High-Level Discussions with Xi Jinping Dwindle

Picture credit: Nikkei Asia website

As China climbs up the ranks in terms of its influence, military dominance and economic development on the world stage, American-Chinese development seems to be deteriorating as their relationship becomes more complex due to their political and economic conflicts of interest. After several meetings held between American and Chinese diplomats gained little progress, Biden called for higher level discussions between the two world leaders. But China has so far shown little interest in pursuing such a summit.

Biden has however had a telephone discussion with the Chinese leader. The White House had described the call as a chance to interpret if Xi Jinping was interested in seriously engaging with the new administration. However, five people who were briefed on the call commented that the overall message to Biden by Xi Jinping was that the US must tone down its rhetoric.

China and the US have been in a constant back and forth, with Biden taking a stern stance and accusing China of genocide of the Uyghurs community in Xinjiang, its crackdown on pro-democracy initiatives in Hong Kong and its active military around Taiwan. China responded by accusing the Biden administration of interfering with the domestic and strategic interests of China. America’s involvement in destabilising the Middle-East and the recent Taliban victory in Afghanistan was another recent topic that China accused the Biden administration of mishandling.

Even though there has been recent tension between the two, one official stated that another plausible reason as to why China was not interested in a current summit is due to Covid-19. Xi Jinping has not left China since the start of the Covid-19 pandemic in early 2020. Chinese media has also indicated that he might not attend the G-20 summit or the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation meeting this week which is to be held in Tajikistan.

A day after the call, Biden considered allowing Taiwan to change the name of its office in the US from “Taipei Economic and Cultural Representative Office” to “Taiwan Representative Office”. This move had infuriated China as they feared that such a name change would strengthen Taiwan’s claim to be an independent nation.

Picture credit: CNN website

Jake Sullivan, US national security advisor commented “As we’ve said, the presidents discussed the importance of being able to have private discussions between the two leaders, and we’re going to respect that”. Chinese accounts of the call however emphasises the fact that the call had been initiated by Biden, and even quoted Xi saying that US policies had caused “serious difficulties”.

This complicated relationship between the two world superpowers make even conducting discussions between the two leaders a hassle due to their strategic nature. Bonnie Glaser, a China expert at the German Marshall Fund commented “It may be politically risky for Xi to engage with President Biden without certainty that he can get something from Biden. He may calculate that it is safer to only have interactions at this period at lower levels”.

September 16th 2021 | 11:25 AM

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