International

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

WASHINGTON (UKTN) — President Joe Biden’s administration is taking stock of a new delegate Xi Jinping as the Chinese president begins a third, norm-breaking five-year term as Communist Party leader. With US-China relations already tense, concerns are growing in Washington that more difficult days may lie ahead.

Xi has amassed a measure of power over the Chinese ruling party since Mao Zedong, the leader from 1949 until his death in 1976. most powerful military and economic opponent.

Biden is proud to have bonded with Xi since he first met him more than a decade ago, when they were their country’s vice presidents. But Biden now faces, in Xi, a counterpart backed by a greater degree of power and determined to cement China’s superpower status even as he faces strong economic and diplomatic headwinds.

“We are not back in the Mao era. Xi Jinping is not Mao,” said Jude Blanchette, chair of China Studies at the Center for Strategic and International Studies. “But we are definitely in new territory and unpredictable territory in terms of the stability and predictability of the Chinese political system.”

Biden and Xi are expected to hold talks on the sidelines of next month’s Group of 20 summit in Indonesia, a highly anticipated meeting that would come after nearly two years of tense relations. The leaders seek to gain the upper hand in a competition that both say will determine which country will be the leading economic and political force in the century to come.

“There are so many things we can talk to China about,” said John Kirby, spokesman for the National Security Council. He added that US and Chinese officials have been working to arrange a meeting of the leaders, though one has yet to be confirmed. “Some issues are quite controversial and some should be worked together,” Kirby said.

Biden and Xi traveled together in the US and China in 2011 and 2012, and they have made five phone or video calls since Biden took office in January 2021. But the relationship between the US and China has become much more complicated since their acquaintance – you talk ten years ago at meals in Washington and on the Tibetan plateau.

As president, Biden has repeatedly indicted China for human rights violations against the Uyghur people and other ethnic minorities, Beijing’s crackdown on democratic activists in Hong Kong, coercive trade practices, military provocations against self-ruled Taiwan and disagreements over Russia’s prosecution of its war against Ukraine. .

Xi’s government has criticized the Biden administration’s stance on Taiwan — which Beijing appears to eventually unite with the communist mainland — as undermining China’s sovereignty and territorial integrity. The Chinese president has also suggested that Washington wants to suppress Beijing’s growing power as it tries to overtake the US as the world’s largest economy.

“External efforts to suppress and contain China could escalate at any time,” Xi warned in his speech to the Communist Party Congress. “We therefore need to be more aware of potential hazards, be prepared for worst-case scenarios and be ready to withstand high winds, choppy waters and even dangerous storms.”

Dali Yang, a political scientist at the University of Chicago who studies Chinese politics, said there are some potentially stabilizing developments in the relationship after months of rancor.

Two of China’s best-known diplomats in Washington were elevated at the Communist Party meeting. Foreign Minister Wang Yi was selected to serve on the Communist Party’s Politburo, the policy body made up of the top 24 officials. The Chinese ambassador to the US, Qin Gang, joins the central committee. Their elevation should bring some degree of continuity to the US-China relationship, Yang said.

Yang noted that an attempt has also been made on the part of the Communist Party leadership to “weaken Russia’s warm embrace”. 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 Xi is now freer to act and less burdened in terms of no longer always having to watch what his rivals are doing,” Yang said. make him more comfortable dealing with Biden.”

White House officials have downplayed hopes that Xi’s new five-year hold on the Communist Party could give him breathing room to get involved more fully in cases where China has some overlapping interests with the US.

Biden emphasized during a meeting with Defense Department officials on Wednesday that the US was “not looking for a conflict” with China. Hours later, Chinese state television reported that Xi had told members of the national committee on US-China relations that Beijing needed to find ways to work with Washington on issues of mutual interest.

The moment of reconciliation was short-lived.

The next day, US and Chinese officials exchanged rhetorical shots about the US move earlier this month to extend export controls on sales of advanced semiconductor chips to China.

“The US has overstretched the national security concept and suppressed China’s development, and normal business cooperation has been politicized and armed,” Wang Hongxia, an adviser at the Chinese embassy in Washington, told reporters.

Her comments came not long after a top Commerce Department official, Undersecretary Alan Estevez, said in a Washington forum that “if I were a gambler, I would put money” on the US imposing additional export controls on China.

The Chinese economy is slowing, with Beijing this month reporting growth of 3% for the first nine months of the year, putting it well on track to remain well below its official target of 5.5% for the full year. The country’s economy is also dragging from strict “zero” COVID regulations, and Beijing is facing a slowdown in exports and house prices that fell to their seven-year low in September.

It also faces increasing competition from a US and European Union investing tens of billions of dollars to compete in semiconductors and other technologies. All of this points to the possibility that by 2030 China will not eclipse US gross domestic product, as many economists have predicted.

Ruchir Sharma, chairman of Rockefeller International, recently concluded that China’s likely growth trajectory would surpass the US economy by 2060, if it succeeds at all.

At the same time, Secretary of State Antony Blinken and the US Chief Naval Operations Officer, Adm. Mike Gilday, recently expressed concern that Beijing could try to speed up its timeline to take Taiwan. Blinken said China had “made a fundamental decision that the status quo was no longer acceptable”.

China has largely abstained from criticizing Russia’s war in Ukraine, but has also refrained from supplying arms to Moscow. Still, the conflict in Taiwan has raised concerns that China — which has never controlled the island — may be further encouraged to move forward with its long-standing plan for unification.

Tensions between the US and China have been further fueled by Chairman Nancy Pelosi’s visit to Taiwan in August and Biden’s remark in May that the US military would defend Taiwan in the event of an attack by China, the White House later said.

“What is worrying now is that with Xi’s unlimited power and ambition, he may be able to use Taiwan to distract his internal problems,” said Keith Krach, a former secretary of state during the Trump administration. “I hope he looked at the courage of the Ukrainians and assumed that the people of Taiwan are just as brave, maybe even more so.”

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UK Time News writer Josh Boak contributed to this report.

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Follow UKTN’s coverage of China at: https://apnews.com/hub/china

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