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EDITORIAL: Earlier this year as US legislator Nancy Pelosi visited Taiwan spiking tensions between China and the United States, President Biden promised to defend the self-ruled island. At his three-hour-long meeting with President Xi Jinping in Bali on Monday he did indicate that Washington was ready to defend the island “militarily” – only to be told by President Xi that Taiwan is the “first red line that must not be crossed in China-US relations”.

Yet the outcome of this heart-to-heart talk by the two sides on the eve of G20 Summit has generated the general impression that they had tried to take some heat out of their simmering superpower rivalry. President Xi told President Biden that the two countries “shared more, not less, common interests”, because “the world expects that China and the United States will properly handle the relationship”.

China does not seek to challenge the United States or “change the existing world order”. But the two sides issued separate statements on the outcome of the meeting. According to the Chinese statement, President Xi made it clear to his American counterpart that his country is advancing the rejuvenation of the Chinese nation on all fronts through a Chinese path to modernisation, “basing our efforts on the goal of meeting the people’s aspirations for a better life, unswervingly pursuing reform and opening-up, and building of an open global economy.”

President Biden wasn’t as open to the future relationship between the two countries, but as they discussed issues like tensions in the Korean peninsula and Russia’s war in Ukraine, he did convey to President Putin in unequivocal terms that no nuclear war should be fought as it cannot be won.

However, the perceptive prospects of China and the United States on their geopolitically-oriented relationship as spelled out by their presidents remained short of complete unanimity. Their consensus on transnational issues didn’t seem to be assuaging their differences on bilateral and regional issues.

The United States’ Indo-Pacific policy doesn’t fit in the Chinese call for peace in the region and tends to precipitate developments that can lead to wider conflict. On the other hand, President Biden wants China to rein in its strategic ally North Korea as the spate of missile tests has raised global concerns.

Be that as it may, President Xi’s position on issues like climate change, global macroeconomic stability including debt relief, health security and global food security was emphatically conveyed to President Biden, who in turn was a bit circumspective.

Hopefully, given his party’s heartening performance in midterm elections he is quite likely to move out of the anti-China groove. At the meeting with President Xi he announced that US Secretary of State Antony Blinken would be visiting China early next year “to follow on their discussions”.

Copyright Business Recorder, 2022

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