Biden faces ‘unpredictable’ era with China’s Xi empowerment


The administration of President Joe Biden is embracing a newly empowered Xi Jinping as the Chinese President begins a breakthrough third, five-year term as Communist Party leader. With the US-China relationship already strained, Washington is increasingly concerned that tougher days may be ahead.

Mr. Xi has amassed a measure of power over China’s ruling party not seen since Mao Zedong, leader from 1949 until his death in 1976. The consolidation of power by Mr. Xi Xi takes place as the United States updates its national security and defense strategies to reflect that China is now American. strongest economic and military opponent.

Biden prides himself on having built a relationship with Xi since first meeting him more than a decade ago, when they served as their country’s vice presidents. But Biden now faces Mr. Xi, a prominent counterweight thanks to a larger measure of power and a determination to cement China’s superpower status even in the face of economic and political difficulties. diplomatic.

“We are not going back to the Mao era. Xi Jinping is not Mao,” said Jude Blanchette, director of China studies at the Center for Strategic and International Studies. “But we are certainly in new and unpredictable territory in terms of the stability and predictability of China’s political system.”

Biden and Xi are expected to hold talks on the sidelines of the Group of 20 summit in Indonesia next month, a long-awaited meeting that will come after nearly two years of strained relations. Leaders are trained to gain the upper hand in a competition that they both believe will determine which countries are the leading global economic and political drivers of the next century.

National Security Council spokesman John Kirby said: “There are many issues that we need to discuss with China. He added that US and Chinese officials are working to arrange a meeting of the leaders, though a meeting has yet to be confirmed. “Some issues are quite contentious and some need to be collaborated on,” says Kirby.

Biden and Mr. Xi traveled together in the US and China in 2011 and 2012, and they have held five phone or video calls since Biden became president in January 2021. But the relationship US-China relations have become much more complicated since these people met-you-talking over meals in Washington and on the Tibetan plateau a decade ago.

As president, Biden has repeatedly tasked China with human rights abuses against Uighurs and other minorities, Beijing’s crackdown on pro-democracy activists in Hong Kong. Hong Kong, coercive commercial activities, military provocations against self-ruled Taiwan, and differences over Russia’s prosecution of its war against Ukraine.

Mr. Xi’s government has criticized the Biden administration’s position on Taiwan – where Beijing appears to eventually reunify with the communist mainland – as undermining China’s sovereignty and territorial integrity. The Chinese president also suggested that Washington wants to contain Beijing’s growing influence as it tries to overtake the US as the world’s largest economy.

“Attempts from outside to suppress and contain China could escalate at any time,” Xi warned in his speech to the Communist Party congress. “As a result, we must be more mindful of potential hazards, prepare for worst-case scenarios, and be prepared for high winds, fast-moving waters and even dangerous storms. .”

Dali Yang, a political scientist at the University of Chicago who studies Chinese politics, said some steady progress is likely to emerge in the relationship after months of discord.

Two of China’s most famous diplomats in Washington were promoted to the Communist Party meeting. Foreign Minister Wang Yi was selected to the Politburo of the Communist Party, the policy-making body of 24 top officials. China’s ambassador to the US, Qin Gang, is joining its central committee. Yang says their elevation will provide a measure of continuity for the US-China relationship.

Yang notes that the Communist Party leadership has also made efforts to “lighten their warm embrace towards Russia.” Last month, after meeting Xi on the sidelines of a summit in Uzbekistan, Russian President Vladimir Putin acknowledged that Xi had expressed “concerns and questions” about the war in Ukraine.

With his third term confirmed, “in some ways, Mr. Xi is now more free to act and less deterred from having to always keep an eye on how his opponents are doing.” do,” Yang said. “I think that could really affect his approach and possibly make him more comfortable dealing with Biden.”

White House officials have rejected hope that Xi’s five years in charge of the new Communist Party could give him a chance to engage more fully on issues where China has some overlapping interests with the United States. .

Biden, in a meeting with Defense Department officials on Wednesday, stressed that the US “does not seek conflict” with China. Hours later, Chinese state television reported that Xi told members of the national committee on US-China relations that Beijing should seek to work with Washington on issues of mutual concern.

The moment of reconciliation was short-lived.

The next day, US and Chinese officials exchanged eloquent words about the US move earlier this month to expand export controls over sales of advanced semiconductor chips to China.

Wang Hongxia, a counselor at the Chinese Embassy in Washington, told reporters: “The US has overemphasised the concept of national security and stifled China’s development, and normal business cooperation has politicized and weaponized”.

Her comments came not long after a top Commerce Department official, Deputy Secretary Alan Estevez, said at a forum in Washington that “if I were a bettor, I would bet” on the bets. The US imposes more export controls on China.

China’s economy is slowing, Beijing reported this month that growth in the first nine months of the year was 3%, putting it at a much lower pace than the official full-year target of 5 ,5%. The country’s economy is also dragging on strict “no” COVID rules, and Beijing is facing a slowdown in exports and house prices that fell to a seven-year low in September.

It also faces growing competition from the United States and the European Union, which are investing tens of billions of dollars to compete in semiconductors and other technologies. All of this suggests that China may not eclipse the US gross domestic product by 2030 as many economists have forecast.

Ruchir Sharma, President of Rockefeller International, recently concluded that on its growth trajectory it is likely that China will overtake the US economy by 2060, if it manages to do so.

At the same time, Secretary of State Antony Blinken as well as the US Director of Naval Operations, Adm. Blinken said China has made “a fundamental decision that the status quo is no longer acceptable.”

China has largely refrained from criticizing Russia’s war in Ukraine, but has also stopped supplying Moscow with weapons. However, the conflict has raised concerns in Taiwan that China – which has never controlled the island – may be further emboldened to carry out its long-declared reunification plan.

US-China tensions flared further after House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s August visit to Taiwan and Mr Biden’s remarks in May that US troops would defend Taiwan in the event of an attack by China. , the White House comment was later downplayed.

Keith Krach, a former Trump-era deputy minister of state, said: “The worry now is that with Xi’s limitless power and ambition, he could use Taiwan to distract from domestic affairs. his set”. “I hope he looks at the courage of the Ukrainian people and thinks that the people of Taiwan are equally brave, perhaps more.”

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