The Guardian • Issue #1989

China-US relations seek to chart new course

US President Joe Biden and Chinese President Xi Jinping opened dialogue in a virtual summit for over three hours on 16th November, with both leaders expressing a desire to manage the growing tensions between the world’s largest economies and create a roadmap for cooperation in terms of global issues such as climate change and the pandemic. While the discussion gives hope that common ground may be able to be found, it comes in the wake of the development of the US, the UK and Australia’s AUKUS military pact against China, the US media’s continued slander against the Chinese government, and further provocation supporting successionism in Taiwan. Political commentators have suggested that the reason for Biden’s invitation was to discuss strategies for removing the tariffs on China, which have been much more detrimental to the US economy. Australia’s government continues to vilify China and pander to the US, also to the detriment of Australia’s economy and reputation on the global stage.


In the opening remarks of the summit, Xi proposed that both countries should respect each other’s social systems and development paths, as well as each other’s core interests and major concerns. He also hoped for peaceful coexistence with no conflict or confrontation, asserting that the world is big enough to accommodate inclusive and common development; therefore they should focus on mutual benefits over a zero-sum game. Xi suggested that as major powers, both the US and China should lead in international cooperation in global challenges, and learn from each other in common interests such as economy, energy, military, law enforcement, education, technology and environmental protection. His final priority was for constructive measures to be made to manage differences and sensitive issues to avoid deterioration of the relationship.


There was a clear difference in the rhetoric and body language of Biden, which as Einar Tangen, political and economic commentator observed, “shows the difference of where [Xi and Biden] are”. For example, Tangen detailed how Biden spoke of establishing “commonsense guardrails,” and “straightforward competition,” while using defensive hand gestures. He also made sure to note the aim to “honestly and candidly” discuss concerns for human rights, economics, and a free and open Indo-Pacific. This posturing assumes that the US has some kind of moral superiority over human rights and economics, which is laughable with a quick glance of the US’s participation in war crimes, regime change, economic strangulation of sovereign nations and the treatment of their own citizens. A “free and open” Indo-Pacific is also telling of the US’s interests – not to be mistaken for freedom for the people, but to dominate and have economic freedom to force sell weapons to Indo-Pacific nations.


Tangen as well as Charles Liu, co-founder of Impact Asia Capital, explained that the tariffs put on China have impacted the US economy and US citizens exceptionally more than China. Liu explained that Biden needed the summit more than Xi, to create an opportunity to remove the tariffs, as one way to begin to address the serious inflation problem. Also, 245,000 well-paying American jobs were lost because of this trade war, which may have also compelled Biden to create better relations and perhaps get 100,000 of them back in the wake of his poor poles. But the US will never admit such an embarrassing decision, and a strategy to ‘keep face’ while removing the tariffs is likely to follow. This may come in the form of developing some kind of benign agreement. The reality is that US citizens sit divided in their trust for their government, which could lead to Biden losing senate and house in the near future, and a new fire-and-brimstone US president may arise, toppling any diplomatic measures. To compare, China boasts a ninety per cent approval rating and Xi sits comfortably in the work he is doing to develop his country and make lasting strong relationships.


In addition, the US is insecure about China also creating stronger ties with their claimed province, Taiwan, as this may mean that sixty per cent of the world’s semiconductors could be owned by China, giving them a massive advantage in the tech industry. Liu suggests that preventing this, more than freedom or liberty, is a priority for the US, who may aim to “hollow out” these resources in Taiwan. Meanwhile, Western media touts stories of the “poor” Taiwanese who are only trying to gain independence from China to maintain “democracy” (a pseudonym for a US vassal state), as the reason for US warships to be stationed in the South China Sea. What they neglect to mention is that the US (and Australia for that matter) officially adhere to the One China Policy. The reality is that if the tables were turned, and Chinese ships were stationed in the Gulf of Mexico, it would clearly be seen as a threat. This is not to mention the fact that the majority of Taiwanese citizens support the status quo, and 80 per cent of Taiwanese businesses are tied to the mainland. The majority of Taiwanese startups choose to enter the Chinese market.

Regardless, the US continues to use bullying tactics by sending its warships through the Taiwan Strait, outrageously close to Taiwan and the Chinese mainland. Currently, the US is conducting multinational naval exercises in the Philippine Sea, just east of the South China Sea, with allies Australia, Canada, Germany and Japan. However, Liu predicts that only one of these countries would be foolish enough to actually destroy its own economy and go to war with China to keep the Americans happy.


When interviewed about the potential for going to war with China, Australian Defence Minister, Peter Dutton simply responded that if China did something similar to what they did in Hong Kong, how are the Americans meant to respond? He also committed Australia’s support if the US were to invade Taiwan, as the Australians have always participated in US-led wars, and “we need to make sure we have the best friends in the world”. Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison has also spouted similar rhetoric in the wake of the AUKUS military pact targeting China, labelling US-Australia relations as a “forever friendship.”

It is curious that such an important ally would request Australia’s economy to suffer due to trade disputes coming out of the hostilities towards China. Should Australia’s BFF then take its trade with China for itself – increasing their own exports of wine, cotton, and timber? Furthermore, should Australia’s best buddy weaponise them and put them at risk of being cannon fodder? Anyone with half a brain would know that Australia has no chance in defending itself against the People’s Liberation Army. There has been no contact between the Australian and Chinese government for over eighteen months. It is clear that both Dutton and Morrison are lackeys of America and traitors to Australian interests.

Meanwhile, China will continue to develop peacefully, and continue to increase cooperation with nations around the world, as they have in their recent signing of a strategic comprehensive partnership with ASEAN, a union of Southeast Asian nations. Australia would be better off with close ties with its neighbouring Asian countries, rather than continuing in lockstep with the declining US empire, to its own detriment. The Australian working class should consider Australia’s reputation on the world stage, and think about who and what is truly being sacrificed in order to maintain US hegemony in the region. In the lead up to the upcoming Australian elections, the Labor Party should consider charting a more pragmatic path for the Australian people rather than the bipartisan approach they have shown to date.

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