•But the US strategy, which has now been fully exposed, is to put Beijing constantly on its defence.
•Envious of China’s massive trade surplus, former US President Donald Trump slapped $50 billion in tariffs on Chinese goods.
The postponement of US secretary of state Antony Blinken’s visit to Beijing for a sit-down with President Xi Jinping this Sunday has come at a time of escalating tensions between the two countries, particularly on the Taiwan issue.
For Beijing, the meeting, when it does happen, will be an opportune moment to show its resolve in reclaiming its rightful territory, just like it did with Macao and Hong Kong autonomous regions.
Blinken is expected to travel with baggage on other grievances the US holds against its geopolitical nemesis. One of these is obviously the baseless and weaponised claims of human rights abuses by the Chinese government against the Muslim residents in the Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region. Never mind that these claims, like other conspiracy theories before it, have been debunked. Of course, it is all economic sabotage of the region’s internationally renowned cotton.
Then there is the unresolved trade war between the two largest economies in the world. Envious of China’s massive trade surplus, former US President Donald Trump slapped $50 billion in tariffs on Chinese goods. This kicked off a vicious cycle, with Beijing countering with its own tariffs on American goods. After an apparent lull in the tariff war in 2020, Biden has reinstated the punitive measures.
Beijing will obviously complain about the sustained war on Chinese technology companies. In the latest onslaught under the guise of national security, the US completely banned new sales of telecommunications equipment from Huawei, ZTE and three other Chinese companies in November, 2022. Again, this is aimed at directly hitting the Chinese economy where it matters most and inciting US allies to decouple with China and cut it off from their supply chain.
Then there is the unprovoked increase of US military presence in the Philippines. Manila has just agreed to give the American military access to four more bases, strategically positioning the superpower in Southeast Asia. This is definitely blatant provocation that stokes tensions in an already volatile region.
Well, Beijing has made its protestations to Washington, and warned that “such moves are escalating tensions in the region, and endangering regional peace and stability”. There is really nothing for the Philippines in the military deal. As usual, the US is using its mastery of the art of deception in order to achieve its selfish interests, and intimidate its perceived foes in the region.
With this immediate background, the US has shown that it has no goodwill in the upcoming meeting. If the US is really serious to mend fences, it would not have taken the secretary of state one year to make a landmark visit to Beijing. Going by President Joe Biden’s body language, the visit would have been on the to-do list in the first 100 days as a way of sending the right signals to allies on both sides.
But to be fair, it is not really about Biden. Blinken is the first US secretary of state to have a meeting with the Chinese president in almost six years. With all manner of accusations that the US has levelled against China in the last couple of days at the least, it really behoves the former to make the first move in seeking rapprochement. But the US strategy, which has now been fully exposed, is to put Beijing constantly on its defence. The sustained pressure is also supposed to keep the two countries in a state of angst, leaving little room for diplomacy.
Well, suffice it to say that the world’s attention will definitely be directed towards Beijing in the next couple of days to see the outcome of the Blinken visit. With the fading away of the pandemic, the US and China hold the keys to global economic recovery. Continued tensions are self-serving and hurt the vulnerable more than the two powers who can manage to sustain the tug-of-war to its logical conclusion.
But for the meeting to be fruitful and have a roadmap for mending the currently toxic relations, the US must step down from its high horse and engage in a win-win dialogue. The superpower must now admit that it is not the big boy it used to be. Other countries have grown up and can equally flex their social, economic and even military muscle.
In the same spirit of swallowing its pride, the US should admit that its economic war with China has actually damaged its economy more than it has its target. China still retains its pole position as the world’s leading exporter. This fact is not bound to change simply because the US keeps crying wolf where really none exists.
The writer is the Executive Director of South-South Dialogues and a PhD student in International Relations at USIU-Africa.