For three and a half hours, the leaders of the world’s two most powerful countries – the US and China – met in Bali, where the summit of G-20 is underway. Usually, what has been discussed subject-wise and where agreements and disagreements have been noted is difficult to summarize.
Therefore, whatever has been revealed to the press, either through interviews or short comments, has to be taken as the cue for understanding the contours of the respective policies of the two powers. It was agreed by both sides not to issue any joint statement. That is the way China handles top meetings.
The first thing both sides have shown a good understanding of is that the two countries should remain connected to avoid a communication gap.
The next thing on which both leaders are of identical view is that as the world’s top leaders, they understand their responsibility of avoiding conflicts and working in the interests of the vast global population.
It was expected that the two leaders would agree on some formula for ending the war in Ukraine and stopping the bloodshed. But this expectation seems not to have become a strong point of discussion.
Essentially, observers were eager to know if there was any move by the US to look for at least a ceasefire in Eurasia.
The two leaders did not find it feasible to get bogged in a point-counterpoint discussion of the Ukraine war issue. It was laconically said that the Ukraine war was also discussed.
While the US did subtly concede that Pelosi’s visit to Taiwan more than a month ago had adversely impacted Sino-American relations, President Xi assured that if there were no unwanted interference in Taiwan, China would not be interested in altering the status quo.
In other words, China would stick to the dispensation in place in Taiwan and remain content with it, being assured that no attempt was made by any side to alter the ground realities as these existed.
President Xi Jinping met with US President Biden
at #G20 Bali yesterday. He pionted out that the current state of China-US relations is not in the fundamental interests of our two countries and peoples, nor is what the international community expects from us. pic.twitter.com/NmfanRCIxO
— Chinese Consulate-General in Melbourne (@ChineseCon_Mel) November 14, 2022
Xi And Biden Meet At G-20 After Domestic Win
It has to be noted that the two leaders came to a meeting in Bali under the cover of a domestic umbrella. The Democrats in the US Congress have retained their strength after the recent midterm elections and thereby also retain the Senate’s control.
The party has performed better than expected in the House elections. Biden hopes to receive cooperation from the Republicans on his government’s foreign policy.
Most of the extremist members in the Republican Party who had been strongly criticizing China and would warn the Trump administration to ensure distancing from China and her ways of leading his nation are making the way smooth for Biden.
Biden expects more cooperation from the Republicans on his foreign policy, including the approach toward China. In the press conference in Bali, he said that “the election sent a powerful message around the world that the United States is ready to play. The Republicans, who survived, and the Democrats, believe that we will stay fully engaged in the world.”
Alternatively, Xi Jinping has won the rare third term as the President and the Secretary of the CCP in an overwhelming vote in the recently held 20th National Congress of the Party.
Taiwan, Ukraine, Russia’s Nuclear Threat & Global Food & Energy Crisis
While Biden believed that free trade and commerce in the IOR and South China Sea region would ultimately help resolve the Taiwan issue, Xi categorically stated that Taiwan was the first red line that must not be crossed in China-US relations, according to state broadcaster CCTV.
He has been quoted as saying, “We hope to see and always strive to maintain peace and stability across the Taiwan Strait, but ‘Taiwan independence’ is incompatible with peace and stability across the Taiwan Strait.” This indicates that China has stuck to its known stand on Taiwan, whereas the American philosophy of defending the independence of Taiwan seems to have lost steam.
There is a stark warning to Putin to forget the nuclear threat he has been handing over repeatedly in the background of the escalation of war with Ukraine. Referring to the talks between Xi and Biden, without taking the name of Russia or Putin, the two leaders have reiterated that a nuclear war must never be fought and will never be won.
The tone and tenor of the statement point to Moscow, which has been talking about using the nuclear bomb in the Ukraine war if the US and NATO countries try to intimidate her survival.
The warning is timely and along the rational path. But the statement would have carried the real weight if the two leaders had come to a common conclusion that steps should be taken to put an end to fighting in Ukraine.
There is no indication of that type, and as such, people disgusted with the senseless fighting in Ukraine are disappointed.
According to them, the foremost issue that the two leaders should have discussed at length and resolved under given circumstances so that there would be some ease in the global energy and food crisis.
On the positive side, President Biden would be taking the first step of sending his Secretary of State on a formal visit to China in the process of the two countries agreeing to exchange visits of senior government officials.
They would reflect on the dimensions of bilateral issues and the scope of reducing differences. This, according to Biden, would be a regular feature of a new relationship.
In conclusion, knowing that the two countries have different histories, system differences are likely to arise, and competition cannot be ruled out. But, as President Xi said, the two sides had to learn from their experience and progress together.
Both sides have to view each other’s strategic intentions correctly and establish the tone of the other’s domestic and foreign policies in exchanges of dialogue rather than confrontation.
President Biden has set a new parameter of America’s relationship with China by conceding that “China never seeks to change the existing international order, does not interfere in the internal affairs of the United States, and has no intention of challenging or replacing the United States.”
This should be almost like an assurance for the US to plan her relationship with other nations without any constraint of how China would react. All right-thinking people will consider it an achievement hitherto never heard of.
- Padma Shri KN Pandita is the former Director of the Centre of Central Asian Studies at Kashmir University. Views expressed here are of the author’s.
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