To prepare for President Xi Jinping’s upcoming trip to the United States in November for the leaders’ meeting of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation, China’s leaders have begun 2023 in a more measured manner, according to analysts.
“The planet’s future depends on a stable China-U.S. relationship,” the new Chinese foreign minister Qin Gang argued in an opinion piece published on Wednesday in The Washington Post.
Qin wrote about his fond memories of driving a John Deere tractor in Iowa, visiting a corn farm in Missouri, and witnessing enormous stacks of China-bound containers at the ports of Boston and Long Beach during his 17 months as China’s ambassador to the United States.
In his writing, he stated, “I leave the United States more convinced that the door to China-U.S. relations will remain open and cannot be closed.”
The mellow tone was in line with President Xi Jinping’s broadcast New Year’s message on December 31.
Xi avoided using the term “reunification” when discussing Taiwan, which he had previously mentioned. He stated, “The people living on either side of the Taiwan Strait are members of the same family.” I sincerely hope that our neighbors on both sides of the Strait will collaborate with a common goal to promote the Chinese nation’s long-term prosperity.”
According to Zhu Jianrong, a professor at Tokyo’s Toyo Gakuen University, Xi’s remarks regarding Taiwan were “completely different” from those of previous years. In his New Year’s address at the end of 2019, Xi used strong language about “one country, two systems,” which backfired and led to Tsai Ing-wen’s reelection the following month.”
Zhu stated that he would not want to go through that again given that elections in Taiwan will take place once more in 2024.
During an appearance at the Aspen Institute last month, White House Indo-Pacific coordinator Kurt Campbell predicted that China will attempt to stabilize its relations with the United States in the near and possibly medium term.
I think it’s impossible to deny that some aspects of wolf-warrior diplomacy have failed as they examine the international scene over the past few years. “With regard to their soft power, they have lost some of their shine,” Campbell stated.
“They’ve taken on and challenged many countries at the same time, whether it’s issues with India’s border areas, Japanese waters around the Senkakus, or other exploits that suggest perhaps a more ambitious China. They probably realize that has, in many ways, backfired.”
According to Campbell, Xi’s domestic problems include the slowing economy and COVID-19. All of this suggests to me that an openly hostile relationship with the United States is the last thing the Chinese need right now. They want some stability and predictability. “And we also seek that,” he added.
“With Xi traveling to the United States in November for the APEC leader’s meeting, a calmer environment would support his interest in being accorded preferential treatment by U.S. President Joe Biden,” Ryan Hass, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution, wrote in a commentary on Wednesday.
Hass, a former director for China, Taiwan, and Mongolia at the National Security Council under former President Barack Obama, wrote that “it is reasonable to expect China’s leaders will respond by seeking to calm their external environment to concentrate on challenges at home” in the face of increasing stresses related to social, economic, and public health.
They will want to project an image to their people of being treated with dignity and respect abroad in order to counter criticism of their domestic governance record. “In the context of the U.S.-China relationship, such symbolism will have no greater significance,” he stated.
“China will likely maintain its mild approach even after APEC,” said Masafumi Ishii, a former Japanese ambassador to Indonesia who is now a special adjunct professor at Tokyo’s Gakushuin University. “It doesn’t make sense to confront the United States until it can climb out of the current mess,” Ishii stated. “With so many domestic challenges.”
Ishii stated, “This does not imply that China is on an ongoing charm offensive.” He stated, “China will likely challenge the United States once more after some time.” The temptation to challenge will increase as China’s economy and national power get closer and closer to those of the United States.”
In November, San Francisco will be the location of the APEC summit. Chinese planners will want to make sure that Xi is treated well compared to previous Chinese leaders at APEC meetings hosted by the United States.
On the sidelines of the Blake Island APEC in 1993, the late former president Jiang Zemin met with the current president, Bill Clinton, in Seattle. Since the bloody Tiananmen Square crackdown four years earlier, it was the first high-level U.S.-China exchange, paving the way for a new relationship.
On the sidelines of the Honolulu APEC conference in 2011, former President Hu Jintao met with Obama.
After Obama was elected president in January 2009, it was already their ninth meeting.
Zhu of Toyo Gakuen stated that when Xi does visit San Francisco, he will attempt to convince Americans that China is not an adversary. Beijing has made it clear that the situation right now is not a new “Cold War.” “Zhu stated that the Chinese side does not wish for the competition to progress beyond a point of no return.”
According to Hass of Brookings, these Chinese desires will give the United States a chance to advance its priorities with China in the coming year.
The first step will be Antony Blinken’s trip to China that is scheduled for the first quarter of 2023. “An opportunity to leverage form for substance will be provided by China’s focus on positive optics for Xi’s visit to the United States in November,” Hass stated.