The telephone conversation that took place on 9th September between the presidents of the People’s Republic of China and the USA, initiated by the latter, is well worth commenting on. Notably, this was only the second interaction between the leaders of the world’s two leading powers in over six months. During the first of these calls, carried out on 10th February, Xi Jinping congratulated Joe Biden (narrowly avoiding being the last head of state to do so) upon assuming the office of president of the United States.
The very fact that such interactions are exceptional constitutes evidence of continuing political tensions in Sino-American relations, although remarks from the first conversation, and Biden’s rhetoric on the campaign trail in general when questions concerning his future policy towards China were raised, bore a cautious optimism.
However, instead of reducing the level of confrontation with China, some of Washington’s long-held claims against Beijing have only become more acute. This especially concerns issues of “human rights violations” in China’s borderlands (primarily in the Xinjiang Uygur and Tibetan Autonomous Regions) and Hong Kong. The degree of tension around the Taiwain problem has only increased.
Nonetheless, there have recently been attempts to, if nothing else, slow the pace of deterioration of Sino-American relations that already present a rather gloomy picture. As concerns the USA, the driving force behind these positive trends is mainly American business, and also, apparently, some groups (fighting between themselves) of the American political establishment. It is not impossible that the latter actually performs the representative functions of the former in US government structures.
It is due to the efforts of both sides that the long bilateral negotiations on launching a process to correct (hugely significant) “distortions” in bilateral trade concluded successfully in January 2020 with the signature of the so-called “Phase One agreement”. The ratification of this document still remains almost the only positive in an otherwise bleak (to put it mildly) picture of Sino-American relations.
However, the process of the practical implementation of this agreement, occasionally reported on in NEO, runs into obvious obstruction within the American establishment. The next signals from Washington (mainly from the Ministry of Commerce), about the desire both to implement all the points of the agreement and to supplement it with documents on the following ” phases,” warrant all the more attention.
The positive reaction to the aforementioned telephone call from representatives of American companies whose businesses significantly target the Chinese market seemed entirely natural. Among them are such giants as Boeing, Intel, and Coca-Cola.
In turn, the Ministry of Commerce of the PRC has shown a mutual readiness to develop relations. In particular, based on the results of the first seven months of this year, it points to obvious signs of recovery and further development of bilateral trade after their dramatic decline in the last “Covid” year. It is particularly striking that there is a noticeable excess in the rate of growth of imports from the USA over exports to this country. This served as the basis for setting the objectives of the “Phase One agreement”.
There are signs of the strengthening of the aforementioned political group in the American establishment, which, again, stands (at the very least) for halting the deterioration of US relations with their main geopolitical opponents (i.e., with the PRC and the Russian Federation). In Beijing, after ten months of “reflection,” they generally reacted positively to the appointment of a new US ambassador. And this was not “just anybody,” but such a prominent figure in American politics as Nicholas Burns.
It can be assumed that one of the emissaries of the designated group on the international stage is the former Secretary of State John Kerry. Currently, the title of his official position is “United States Special Presidential Envoy for Climate”.
The author is not well informed on the problems of climate change, but it is concerning that it is taking on an increased importance in close connection to the “restructuring” of the world economy and, possibly, playing an instrumental role in relation to it. Furthermore, the source of the problem itself is apparently the same place from which an increased concern about “ecology,” gender equality, the rights of dogs, young children, coloured people, as well as people with dozens of sexual deviations, originates.
But it is what it is, and why not make the most of some aspects of another collective insanity? For example, working on the fringes of well-funded “climate” events in order to reduce the level of tension in relations between the leading world powers.
John Kerry is hardly an authority amongst professional climate scientists, but the position allows him (under a pretext that is perfectly plausible and “neutral”) to hold meetings with representatives of countries with which the USA has seemingly difficult relations today. First and foremost, these, again, include Russia and China. In light of this, you will recall the (ostensibly random) meeting held in Delhi between Kerry and Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov at the beginning of April. Both appeared to be “en route” to their next trips abroad.
It can be assumed, in particular, that the idea and main content of the subsequent meeting in Geneva two months later between the presidents of the Russian Federation and the USA had already been discussed during this “chance” meeting between Kerry and Lavrov. The author will not be surprised, if it transpires that a meaningful consequence of the arrival of Kerry, the “climate scientist,” in Moscow at the start of July turned out to be the implementation of one of the main practical results of the aforementioned meeting of the presidents on launching negotiations to ensure strategic stability. The US Deputy Secretary of State, Wendy Sherman, held such talks with her Russian counterparts in Geneva two weeks later.
As for the USA’s main geopolitical opponent now, Kerry has already visited China twice this year. His first visit to the country turned out to be a continuation of the aforementioned tour during which he met with Lavrov in India. The “climate” envoy’s second visit to China took place a week before the President’s call with Xi Jinping.
The commentators on both of these visits (particularly the last one) are largely skeptical about their impact. In particular, it is notable that, whilst on the territory of China, Kerry could only communicate via videoconference with Foreign Minister Wang Yi and Yang Jiechi, who is higher in the Chinese power hierarchy. The American guest didn’t manage to extricate the fairly narrow “climate” problem from the general negative context of bilateral relations.
Notably, it was made clear to him that attempts to organize bilateral cooperation to limit carbon dioxide emissions were counterproductive since this will inevitably affect the entire range of Sino-American economic relations, in which, as stated above, serious problems exist.
To reiterate, against this unhappy background of bilateral relations, a telephone call took place between the leaders of the USA and China. The White House’s official statement about its content, which is communicated in one long paragraph with very general turns of phrase, is noteworthy for its brevity and its reserved tone.
This topic is described in more detail in an article from the Chinese newspaper Global Times. The headline suggests that Biden called Jinping with the intention of arranging a direct meeting with him. Judging by a number of signs (for example, in relation to the Afghan problem) it is becoming increasingly urgent for the American side in particular.
But now Beijing is already setting out the conditions for its arrangement, on one or another appropriate occasion, which could be the upcoming summits on the climate problem and the next G20 summit. Incidentally, these conditions are quite acceptable and in no way offensive. All that is required is that the opposing party in negotiations, with whom concern is expressed, are treated as an equal partner.
Ongoing propagandistic attacks on the PRC for the aforementioned reasons, and (what is much more serious) the continuation of attempts to form an anti-Chinese military-political bloc in the region, are inconsistent with this (minimal) condition. The QUAD project is considered the prototype for the bloc with the USA, Japan, India, and Australia as participants. The second QUAD summit is scheduled to be held in Washington on 29th September. It is worth noting that this shall be a direct meeting.
Having this kind of “baggage”, it is unclear what the American president was expecting when offering his Chinese counterpart a direct meeting. Biden’s opposite number made it clear that before it is held experts from both countries need to work in all spheres of international relations between the world’s two leading powers.
And on his own, John Kerry the “climate scientist” clearly won’t be enough.
Vladimir Terekhov, expert on the problems of the Asia-Pacific region, exclusively for the online magazine “New Eastern Outlook”.