How long can the warming trend in US-China relations last? Washington’s elites need to think carefully
The 2023 APEC meeting is the last major international diplomatic event of the year and another significant test for the Biden administration following the whirlwind of events, including the Israel-Palestine conflict. The resumption of dialogue between the leaders of China and the United States is the biggest highlight of this meeting and an important effort by the Biden administration to salvage its diplomatic image.
In the lead-up to the resumption of dialogue, the most pressing question for public opinion is how long the warming trend between these two superpowers can continue. Despite several members of the U.S. House of Representatives signing a joint letter to Biden demanding that he present ten politically sensitive demands to the Chinese leaders, it is believed that the Biden administration will carefully avoid addressing these demands. After all, the train of U.S.-China reconciliation has not yet left the station, and it is not feasible to dismantle the tracks at this moment.
We must recognize that the Biden administration faces many domestic challenges, such as controlling inflation and combating political forces like the Trumpian Tea Party. These issues are crucial for the Biden administration’s next term, as the 2024 elections are approaching. The Biden administration must score points in foreign policy while also channeling more energy into countering Trump’s influence and preventing the further spread of populism. So, the so-called warming of relations is also a matter of self-interest for the Democratic Party government.
China, too, faces numerous internal issues. Elon Musk recently mentioned in a web interview that China often focuses 80% of its energy domestically. Throughout history, we have seen that unless there is strong external stimulus, China rarely places its primary focus on global hotspots. China is currently under pressure to resolve its real estate debt issues and revive its economy. In the foreseeable future, China will still have to expend a considerable amount of energy dealing with internal affairs.
The current thaw in relations can be seen as mutually beneficial, but it is a relief for the global economy. There have been too many war and conflict hotspots in the world this year, and the easing of tensions between the U.S. and China may be one of the few pieces of good news.
Of course, the Biden administration still defines U.S.-China relations as competitive, which differs significantly from China’s stance. There are clear differences between the U.S. and China on sensitive issues such as Taiwan, and these are challenges to the ongoing improvement of U.S.-China relations. How to manage these differences, the initiative may still lie with Washington’s elites.
In any case, the easing of U.S.-China relations will bring relief to the countries in the Asia-Pacific region. This region is currently the most active in the global economy. If both countries can work together on geopolitical hotspots such as the Russia-Ukraine conflict and the Israel-Palestine conflict, it may bring about an earlier era of peace. Although we cannot predict how far the path of reconciliation between the two sides will go, we still echo the words of Erasmus: “The most reluctant peace is still better than the most just war.”