On Monday, Presidents Joe Biden and Xi Jinping met for the first time prior to the G20 Summit in Bali, Indonesia – their statements indicating a calm toward global tensions is a victory for diplomacy and peacemakers around the world.
Formal communications between Washington and Beijing had stopped after U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s provocative visit to Taiwan in August. A high ranking official such as Pelosi visiting Taiwan was a slap in the face of the U.S. commitment to the One China Policy, which is the bedrock of peaceful U.S.-China relations for 50 years. When the U.S. and China established diplomatic relations, the two countries issued the 1972 Shanghai Communiqué, proclaiming that “there is but one China and that Taiwan is a part of China.”
China has made it clear that Taiwan is the redline since day one. Even the Pentagon cautioned against Pelosi’s visit. After this slap in the face, Beijing halted important dialogues including climate change, economy, and public health. The situation was made worse by the advancement of Taiwan Policy Act of 2022, Biden’s repeated promise to involve militarily in a potential conflict between China and Taiwan, and the White House’s National Security Strategy prioritizing competition with China.
U.S. politicians often paint China as seeking to show aggression or cause conflict. However, according to a story in POLITICO, leading up to Monday, Chinese officials showed reluctance in moving forward with the Biden-Xi meeting for this reason.
“‘…Chinese diplomats are saying, “You guys whack us every other day — if that is the environment, how can we expect a positive outcome from a Xi-Biden meeting?”‘ a person briefed by Chinese officials on the planning told POLITICO.
‘If they can’t have a positive outcome, their view is “should we even have the meeting?’
China has repeatedly called the U.S. to the negotiation table, even after the White House released the National Security Strategy that aims to “out-compete China.” However, the U.S. keeps crossing the redline, which has made China lose faith in productive diplomacy.
As a former senior U.S. official said to a Bloomberg reporter, “the hawkish tone in DC has contributed to a cycle where the US makes the first move, interprets Chinese reactions as a provocation, and then escalates further.” With this mechanism, the U.S. seeks to undermine China to maintain U.S. hegemony. However, U.S. politicians need to realize that the unipolar world under U.S. domination is not sustainable nor just. The U.S. empire must listen and yield space to not only China, but also other sovereign countries, to ensure peace in an increasingly multipolar world and simply show respect to humanity.
Frozen U.S.-China relations are beginning to thaw following the Biden-Xi meeting, as the two leaders agreed on the importance of cooperation between the two countries, not just for themselves but for the very serious dilemmas facing the world.
According to a Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affair readout, Xi said, “Humanity is confronted with unprecedented challenges… The world expects that China and the United States will properly handle their relationship.” Biden echoed the same sentiment in a White House readout, “the United States and China must work together to address transnational challenges…because that is what the international community expects.” At the same time, Biden insisted that the US will continue competing with China “vigorously,” although the competition should not escalate into conflicts.
Formal communications between Washington and Beijing are back. Secretary of State Antony Blinken is set to visit China. In a press conference following the meeting, Biden said there was “no need for concern” of “a new Cold War.” On the topic that has been the accelerant of recent U.S.-China tension, Biden re-affirmed U.S. commitment to the One China Policy and said that he did not think “there’s any imminent attempt on the part of China to invade Taiwan.”
What transpired in the past few months is a lesson for the world. Provocations only escalate into conflict, but through responsible diplomacy we can make peace and mutual respect with one another. U.S. politicians need to learn that China is not our enemy. Our enemy is climate change. Our enemy is poverty. Our enemy is a global pandemic. When diplomacy fails, dialogues stop, and the world suffers in consequence. When diplomacy succeeds, the international community can cooperate and manage the complexities we share as citizens of this fragile planet earth.
Activist efforts channeled the sentiments of global public opinion, and engendered the atmosphere of urgent constructive dialogue between Xi and Biden, with world leaders echoing for Biden to do the right thing with China: To quit making countries choose sides and to tone it down — the preconditions of a more harmonious international order.
Jodie Evans is the founder of CODEPINK, and is the coordinator of China Is Not Our Enemy. Wei Yu is CODEPINK’s China is Not Our Enemy campaign coordinator.