It has been obvious that the U.S. has been trying to engage the Chinese government in a dialogue hoping to arrange a Biden-Xi meeting or even a phone call to manage the competition vs cooperation issues with China. The U.S. state, treasury, defense, and commerce departments as well as the trade representative all have made gestures desiring to visit China to have a conversation, yet China has stayed cool to yet offer any positive response. The Secretary of State Blinken expressed his interest in visiting China starting last year, but it never materialized. In February this year, the U.S. shut down a Chinese civilian balloon that drifted into the U.S. territory which heightened the two nations’ diplomatic tension as the U.S. speculated and treated the balloon as a spy balloon. Blinken ‘canceled’ his uninvited China visit only to get a colder response from China regarding visiting attempts by Yellen, Raimondo, Austin and others. As the U.S. is facing a debt ceiling and a potential default on June 1st, the need for a dialogue with China becomes urgent since China holds sizable U.S. debt and can influence the financial debt market.
The White House U.S. National Security Advisor, Jake Sullivan, and China’s politburo member and Director of Commission of Foreign Affairs, Wang Yi, held a meeting on May 11-12 in Vienna following the Biden-Xi agreement to keep national security dialogue open was the bomb-shell news on the world stage, even though the meeting produced no details other than being characterized as candid, substantive and constructive. Holding the meeting in Vienna was probably preferred by Beijing since Beijing would not like to open its doors to U.S. officials until the two nations stabilized their relations or the U.S. sincerely met a set of preconditions. The U.S. was too much accustomed to using diplomacy as an intelligence gathering tool or an intimidation means to achieve its objectives based on its superpower status. Hence, the U.S. is not likely to use diplomacy to persuade or negotiate but to use it to deliver unilateral actions or demands. The U.S. has been very successful throughout its national history with such tactics, especially when dealing with other weaker nations.
But China has grown from a weak to a developing and then to a strong nation, thus diplomatically she has been evolving from accepting to tolerating and then to challenging the U.S. unilateral diplomatic actions to protect her interests. China did not rise from hegemony behavior but from hard work, her rise may have escaped notice but nevertheless became a strong nation with an economy comparable to that of the U.S. and a respectable modernized military force. The last U.S.-China conference in Alaska (March 18-19, 2021) was clearly an outbreak from tolerance to challenge towards the U.S. trade war and economic sanctions. The famous sentence, “We Chinese just don’t swallow this nonsense!” was surprisingly uttered out of Yang Jie-Chi’s mouth, Yang being the Director, Wang Yi’s position today. The U.S. would say one thing in a conference and turn around would do the opposite after the meeting. This behavior was repeated time after time regarding the trade, sanctions, and Taiwan issues. The U.S. would say that it honors the one-China principle and recognizes that Taiwan is a part of China expecting peaceful reunification. But turning around, the U.S. would break protocol and sell weapons to Taiwan hyping the tension in the Taiwan Strait. Mainland China and Taiwan had maintained more than 40 years of peace with patience for peaceful reunification. Wouldn’t any Chinese know that Taiwan was just a pawn for the U.S. Asia-Pacific, now Indo-Pacific, strategy against the rise of China?
In February of 2023, the Chinese Foreign Ministry published a white paper, entitled, U.S. Hegemony and Its Perils. The paper describes the five U.S. hegemonic behaviors, political, military, economic, technological, and cultural hegemony. We may defend the U.S. behavior out of our belief in our values (freedom, rights, and democracy) but the fact that we impose our wills on others by force (bullying) and unilateral actions (hegemony) is not deniable. Other nations have freedom and rights to practice their democracy even if it is not good for them in our opinion. Who gives the U.S. the right to interpret every international issue under the U.S. national security concept? Why is anything happening in the Middle East, Asia or Africa a threat to the U.S. or to our national security? China advocates a neutrality principle; she will never interfere with any country’s internal affairs. China will never use nuclear power on any non-nuclear country nor use it first against anyone. The U.S. maintains hundreds of military bases all over the world in the name of keeping the peace but really in the interest of U.S. national security. China’s rise is based on economic cooperation, she does not spend billions on military throughout the world. It is no surprise that China’s economy is projected to surpass that of the U.S.
Now China does not see any value in keeping a dialogue with the U.S. The reason is simply that the U.S. is accustomed to its hegemonic behavior, saying and doing whatever it pleases without ever thinking in other's shoes. Hence, China lays down preconditions before engaging in any dialogue. China would not waste time playing games with the U.S., they will just work hard, solve their problems, and defend themselves when necessary. Can anyone blame them? It is obvious that they have figured the U.S. out or ran out of patience! China will only deal with the U.S. when its behavior becomes rational. The U.S. has an urgent reason, the above discussed U.S. debt issue, to engage China in a conversation to help the U.S. getting over the debt hurdle. Whether or not the Sullivan-Wang meeting will lead to more dialogue in future opportunities, such as the G7 finance ministers conference and G7 leaders' meeting in Hiroshima in the coming weeks and the APEC meeting in San Francisco in November or visits to China will really depend on the U.S. attitude and behavior. Is the U.S. willing to demonstrate sincerity (The U.S. Manhattan D.A. announced the return of two 7th century stone carvings stolen from China in 1990's is a good gesture) by altering some policy matter (such as senseless sanctions and threatening deeds) ? Put it bluntly, will the U.S. fulfill some preconditions in order to engage a meaningful dialogue to manage U.S.-China competition responsibly?