U.S.-China talks highlight deep rift between global superpowers

The picture has become clearer that China pushes its self-centered arguments, which are not based on order under international law or universal values, in a challenge to the United States. The international community must unite to deal with China’s self-righteous behavior.

The first high-level talks between the United States and China since U.S. President Joe Biden took office were held in the U.S. state of Alaska. Attended by the top diplomats of both countries, the meeting turned out to be an opportunity to confirm each other’s standpoints.

The U.S. side led by Secretary of State Antony Blinken criticized China,telling its foreign affairs chief Yang Jiechi, a member of the Politburo of the Communist Party of China, and others there that “[China’s] actions threaten the rules-based order.” The United States pointed out that U.S. allies and friendly countries widely share concerns regarding China.

There is no end to the list of ways in which China has not hesitated to use force in its attempts to change international systems that the United States has built based on freedom and the rule of law.

Typical of these are its coercive actions in the South China Sea, the Taiwan Strait and around the Senkaku Islands of Okinawa Prefecture. Its repression in Hong Kong and the Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region demonstrates the horror of infringing on human rights and of iron-fisted rule that does not allow for dissenting opinions.

There is deep-rooted criticism of China’s imposition of trade restrictions and tariffs as punitive measures toward countries that do not accommodate its goals.

The United States raised those issues one after the other. But China only repeated its conventional arguments, and there has been no progress.

In previous high-level talks with China, past U.S. administrations often failed to solve pending issues because they put too much priority on avoiding confrontation and making a show of cooperation. During the administration of President Barack Obama, Chinese President Xi Jinping pledged not to militarize the South China Sea, but has since broken that promise.

The Biden administration takes the stance that China has to change its behavior before bilateral relations can move forward. It stands to reason that the United States is employing a strategy of encouraging China to change while deepening cooperation with its allies, and not having dialogue for the sake of dialogue.

The Chinese side advocated the superiority of the Communist Party system and warned that the United States against interfering in “internal affairs” such as Hong Kong and Taiwan issues. By bringing up such global issues as climate change and pandemic measures, China is apparently trying to place importance on “cooperation between superpowers.”

However, unless China exhibits trustworthy behavior, cooperative relations cannot be built. China must face up to the reality that its own deeds and words only heighten the wariness of the international community, and it should change course to comply with rules and international pledges.

In preparation for a protracted U.S.-China confrontation, Japan and other U.S. allies need to enhance deterrence against China’s military buildup and establish a system that does not rely on China in the field of advanced technologies. At the same time, they must urge the United States and China to control themselves, to avoid intensified military tension and unforeseen clashes.

— The original Japanese article appeared in The Yomiuri Shimbun on March 21, 2021.