U.S.-China Summit: Leaders Must Utilize Dialogue to Avoid Possible Conflict

The United States and China have a responsibility to maintain communications among their respective leaders and military authorities to prevent potential conflict. There must be no repeat of a situation in which Beijing refuses to engage in dialogue, thus causing tensions to escalate.

U.S. President Joe Biden and Chinese President Xi Jinping met on the outskirts of San Francisco, marking the first summit between the two leaders in a year.

At the start of the meeting, Biden emphasized the importance of dialogue, saying: “We have to ensure that competition [between the United States and China] does not veer into conflict. And we also have to manage it responsibly.”

In response, Xi said the China-U.S. relationship “is the most important bilateral relationship in the world” and “conflict and confrontation has unbearable consequences for both sides.”

It is positive that Washington and Beijing have agreed to work toward improved relations, but on the other hand, this reflects the current situation in which military tensions are that much higher. These tensions are primarily attributed to the Chinese side.

There has been a spate of incidents in the East China Sea and the South China Sea in which Chinese military aircraft have come abnormally close to planes belonging to the U.S. forces. Dangerous situations involving close-range standoffs between naval vessels from both nations also have occurred.

China has refused to talk with U.S. defense authorities and senior military officials since then U.S. House of Representatives Speaker Nancy Pelosi visited Taiwan in August last year, giving rise to fears that conflict could unexpectedly erupt without an understandings of the other party’s intentions.

On this latest occasion, the U.S. and Chinese leaders agreed to resume defense and military dialogue. The two nations said they would hold a defense ministerial meeting after a new Chinese defense minister is appointed to the currently vacant post. If the present unusual situation in which the two militaries do not talk with one another can be resolved, it would be a forward step toward easing tensions.

On the other hand, the two leaders exchanged heated words regarding Taiwan. Biden stressed the importance of stability in the Taiwan Strait, while Xi said, “China will realize reunification [with Taiwan], and this is unstoppable,” calling for Washington to support Beijing’s “peaceful reunification” and stop providing weapons to Taiwan.

China has repeatedly held military exercises around Taiwan and has increasingly been allowing its fighter jets to cross the median line, which has become the de facto border between China and Taiwan. The situation in which China continues to intensify its military pressure on Taiwan is a far cry from Xi’s position of “peaceful reunification.”

The United States supports Taiwan because China continues to conduct exercises and military buildup in anticipation of armed unification. Rather than asking Washington to stay out of the Taiwan issue, Xi should instead exercise restraint in his provocations.

Russia’s aggression against Ukraine and conflict between Israel and Islamist group Hamas have deepened chaos in the world. If Xi prides himself on being the leader of a “responsible major country,” he should adopt a more constructive role, such as by pressing Russia to cease its aggression.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Nov. 17, 2023)