It is claimed in certain international policy circles that China has been taking steps to adopt an active and assertive role in international affairs. This is not new, but China has sped up the implementation of those policies as part of growing competition with the United States.
China now has a role in world affairs. Traditional actors in international relations should listen and consider China a permanent player that cannot be ignored and must be part of important geopolitical decisions, given its economic, commercial, and cultural standing. This claim was specifically made at the Anchorage meeting, when U.S. and Chinese representatives met to discuss their relations two years ago.
The world needs a stable and predictable China-US relationship. The two countries’ common interests should be explored, and they should value each other’s success as an opportunity, not a threat.
Driven by China’s economic rise over the past decade, President Xi Jinping has moved decisively away from the ‘low profile’ foreign policy mantra espoused by his predecessors and cherished by the West. Over the past 15 years, Beijing has created alternative trade and security blocs to Western-led groupings, sought the support of organizations such as the World Trade Organization, and promoted the Belt and Road Initiative. Today, 34 countries are in the Belt and Road initiative in Europe and Central Asia, including 18 European Union states, and some Latin American countries have also joined.
China took a new step towards energizing dialogue in the Middle East by hosting Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas for a four-day state visit. Xi spoke in favor of an independent Palestinian state based on the 1967 borders with East Jerusalem as its capital.
In June, Xi and Microsoft founder Bill Gates met in Beijing for the first time in over three years, with Xi calling the entrepreneur an “old friend”. Xi pledged continued cooperation with the Gates Foundation, and Gates commended China for addressing the COVID-19 pandemic and poverty alleviation.
During meetings between U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken and his Chinese counterpart, State Councilor and Foreign Minister Qin Gang, Qin told Blinken that the US should respect China’s position on Taiwan, not interfere in China’s internal affairs, and stop undermining China in the name of “free competition”. He also reminded Blinken of Beijing’s three principles governing relations with the US, laid out by President Xi in a virtual meeting with President Joe Biden in November 2021: mutual respect, peaceful coexistence, and cooperation with mutual benefit.
Xi declared that China respects US interests and does not seek to challenge or displace the US. Similarly, he said that the US should respect China and should not harm China’s rights and interests, adding that neither side should try to shape the other by its own will, nor deprive the other of its right to develop.
Blinken said that Biden believes the US and China have an obligation to manage their relations responsibly, adding that this is in the interests of the US, China, and the world. He added that the US is committed to the agenda set by the two presidents when they met in Bali in November 2022, and that the US stands by Biden’s commitments. These state that the US does not seek a new Cold War or to change China’s system, that US defensive and trade alliances with Australia, Japan and other Southeast Asian countries are not aimed at aggression against China, that it does not support “Taiwan independence”, and it does not seek conflict with China.
The US hopes to have high-level engagement with China, keeping lines of communication open, responsibly managing differences, and seeking dialogue, exchanges, and cooperation, he added.
Beijing and Washington agreed to advance collaboration and exchange visits during talks between Qin and Blinken. Earlier, Wang Yi, a member of the Political Bureau and head of the Foreign Affairs Commission of the Communist Party of China Central Committee, also met with Blinken. Wang called on the US to “stop exaggerating the ‘China threat’, lift unilateral sanctions against China, not limit China’s scientific and technological development, and refrain from interfering in China’s internal affairs”.
The US will host this year’s APEC Economic Leaders’ meeting, an international forum of 21 Pacific Rim countries that promotes free trade in the Asia-Pacific region. This is an important opportunity for the US to reconsider and recalibrate its Asia-Pacific policy and challenge China to work with the US in exploring constructive interaction in the region.
The world needs a stable and predictable China-US relationship. The common interest between the two countries should be explored.
We should value each other’s success as an opportunity, not a threat. To this end, the two countries must act responsibly and handle their internal statements prudently. Neither side should try to shape the other by its own will, let alone deprive the other of its right to develop.
Blinken’s visit would seem to be the beginning of a long road, but one that needs to be consolidated step by step. As the Spanish poet Machado said, “there is no path, the path is made by walking”.
* Carlos E. Alfaro provides political and economic risk analysis. He has offices in Buenos Aires, New York, and Beijing.