BEIJING (CHINA DAILY/ASIA NEWS NETWORK) – After four years of tumultuous Sino-US relations under Donald Trump, there has been high hope that the new US administration under President Joe Biden would soon start to work together with China to reopen their lines of communication and put bilateral ties back on track.
After all, the relationship is arguably the most important one in the world. And it is no exaggeration to say that “how the Biden administration handles the US relationship with China will be not just crucial to Biden’s presidency, but one of the defining themes of his time in office” – as the Harvard Business Review put it.
Yet what Mr Biden has done in his early days in office concerning the handling of China-US ties affords little optimism.
Although he shared his greetings and well wishes with the Chinese people on the occasion of the Lunar New Year, and pledged to cooperate with China on such issues as climate change and nuclear weapons proliferation, many of his policies do not seem to deviate much from his predecessor’s approach, marked by direct confrontation across the board from trade and Taiwan to the South China Sea.
Mr Biden told his European allies at the recent Munich Security Conference that “competition with China is going to be stiff”, and “we have to push back against the Chinese government’s economic abuses and coercion that undercut the foundations of the international economic system”.
His pick to lead the Central Intelligence Agency, William Burns, on Wednesday (Feb 24) called China “a formidable, authoritarian adversary”, and claimed that “an adversarial, predatory Chinese leadership poses our biggest geopolitical test”.
Such incendiary remarks harp on the same tune as that heard from the previous administration, and are centered on a zero-sum mentality which sees China’s gain as the US’ loss.
Such messages from Washington are unhelpful for the rebuilding of a sound and healthy bilateral relationship.
The confrontational approach toward China that the Trump administration pursued over the past four years has proved to be a lose-lose proposition for both, and underscores the urgent need for Washington to change tack with reoriented policy priorities that focus on the broad common interests shared by the two countries rather than the differences.
Mr Biden has claimed that China will “eat our lunch”, but that is not the case, it wants to eat lunch together.
Nor does China seek to challenge or replace the US in terms of economic and geopolitical dominance.
It will serve the US’ own interests if the new US administration learns to respect China’s core interests and development rights, and works with Beijing to open a new chapter in bilateral relations.
China Daily is a member of The Straits Times media partner Asia News Network, an alliance of 23 news media organisations.