Restraint from Xi Provides Key to Improving Relations with U.S.

One of the factors hindering the improvement of U.S.-China relations is Beijing’s unilateral words and deeds, such as its military threats against Taiwan. The administration of President Xi Jinping needs to recognize this factor and exercise restraint.

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken has visited Beijing and met Xi, Chinese Communist Party Politburo member and top diplomat Wang Yi, and State Councilor and Foreign Minister Qin Gang.

This is the first visit to China by a U.S. secretary of state in about five years. Blinken had originally scheduled his visit to China for February but postponed it due to the intrusion of a Chinese surveillance balloon into U.S. airspace. The focus of the meetings was whether Washington and Beijing could create momentum to continue their dialogue and ease tensions.

The meeting between Blinken and Qin reportedly lasted about 7½ hours, including a working dinner.

Blinken emphasized the importance of maintaining open channels of communication to reduce the risk of misperception and miscalculation, and invited Qin to Washington. Qin responded that he would make the visit at a “mutually suitable time.”

The fact that both sides confirmed the need for continued dialogue is significant in reducing the risk of unforeseen clashes between the United States and China. This meeting did not mean, however, that the various pending issues between the two nations have moved forward toward a resolution.

Qin described the Taiwan issue as “the core of China’s core interests” and expressed the view that it poses the greatest risk to the U.S.-China relationship. Xi also stressed that the United States “must not hurt China’s legitimate rights and interests.”

Those comments may have been intended to keep in check the strengthening of U.S. involvement in Taiwan, but it is China itself that has brought about such a situation.

In the first place, the United States emphasized “its interest in a peaceful settlement of the Taiwan question” in the 1972 U.S.-China Joint Communique that serves as the basis of U.S.-China relations.

However, the Xi administration, backed by its growing national power, has publicly talked about the possibility of an armed unification of Taiwan, rather than a peaceful settlement, on several occasions. Chinese military aircraft have repeatedly entered Taiwan’s air defense identification zone, and large-scale Chinese military exercises have been conducted around Taiwan.

Not only Washington but the entire world is concerned about Beijing’s attempts to change the status quo by force, in areas including the East and South China Seas. The United States is taking a stringent stance against such behavior because the issue concerns the stability of the international order.

China’s refusal to hold high-level talks with the United States among defense and military officials is also not the attitude of a responsible superpower.

A meeting between U.S. President Joe Biden and Xi this autumn is also being sought. While communication at the top level is necessary, China must first change its coercive attitude if it expects results from such a meeting.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, June 20, 2023)