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Perspectives from Xi-Blinken Meeting By; Gp Capt (Dr) R Srinivasan


Image Courtesy:Sky News


Article: 13/23


President Xi Jinping and Secretary of State Anthony Blinken met on the concluding day of Blinken’s visit to Beijing (19 June 2023). The statements issued by China’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs[i] and US Department of State[ii] are available for appreciating the intent, outlook and position of the two countries from these official statements. The highlights of the Chinese Foreign Affairs Ministry statement are:


1. The Chinese, like the Americans, are dignified, confident and self-reliant people.


2. The common interests of the two countries should be valued, and their respective success is an opportunity instead of a threat to each other.


3. The two countries should act with a sense of responsibility for history, for the people and for the world, and handle China-U.S. relations properly. In this way, they may contribute to global peace and development, and help make the world, which is changing and turbulent, more stable, certain and constructive.


4. President Xi stressed that major-country competition does not represent the trend of the times, still less can it solve America’s own problems or the challenges facing the world.


5. China respects U.S. interests and does not seek to challenge or displace the United States. In the same vein, the United States needs to respect China and must not hurt China’s legitimate rights and interests. Neither side should try to shape the other side by its own will, still less deprive the other side of its legitimate right to development.


6. He called on the U.S. side to adopt a rational and pragmatic attitude, and work with China in the same direction.


7. The United States stands by the commitments made by President Biden, namely the United States does not seek a new Cold War, it does not seek to change China’s system, its alliances are not directed at China, it does not support “Taiwan independence”, and it does not seek conflict with China.


The Department of State on its part issued a statement[iii] whose highlights are:

8. On Taiwan, I reiterated the longstanding U.S. “one China” policy. That policy has not changed. It’s guided by the Taiwan Relations Act, the three Joint Communiqués, the Six Assurances. We do not support Taiwan independence. We remain opposed to any unilateral changes to the status quo by either side. We continue to expect the peaceful resolution of cross-strait differences. We remain committed to meeting our responsibilities under the Taiwan Relations Act, including making sure that Taiwan has the ability to defend itself.


9. First, when it comes to decoupling or economic containment, I think the facts simply belie that proposition. As I mentioned, our trade relationship reached the highest number that it’s ever hit last year – about $700 billion in trade. American foreign direct investment in China has reached levels that we haven’t seen since 2014. Parenthetically, we’ve got about 300,000 Chinese students studying in the United States. We have many American companies that I met with, or at least their representatives here, including the Chamber of Commerce, that continue to be very interested to do business here – and it’s profoundly in our interest.


10. We exchanged views on our respective economic policies, including our concerns about China’s unfair treatment of U.S. companies. During my meeting today with U.S. business leaders, who are operating in China, I heard about the problems that U.S. businesses are facing – including recent punitive actions against American firms. I also heard that U.S. companies want to continue and indeed grow their businesses here. And so, in my meetings, I sought to clarify any misperceptions or misunderstandings about our approach.


11. With regard to lethal aid to Russia for use in Ukraine, we and other countries have received assurances from China that it is not and will not provide lethal assistance to Russia for use in Ukraine. We appreciate that, and we have not seen any evidence that contradicts that. What we do have ongoing concerns about, though, are Chinese firms, companies, that may be providing technology that Russia can use to advance its aggression in Ukraine. And we have asked the Chinese Government to be very vigilant about that.


12. In my meetings, I also discussed human rights. The United States and the international community remain deeply concerned about PRC human rights violations, including in Xinjiang, in Tibet, and Hong Kong. I also specifically raised wrongfully detained U.S. citizens and those facing exit bans. There is no higher priority for me than the safety and well-being of U.S. citizens overseas, and I’ll continue to work intensively to secure their release and their safe return home.


On the part of China, these highlights point to the reiteration of the policy that China has pursued at least from the time Xi Jinping ascended to presidency. ‘Dignified/confident/self-reliant people’ points to the position from which China would like to be viewed and treated. ‘The respective success’ is a reminder that China has been as successful as the United States and connotes an ‘if not more’, thereby drawing an inference that the dialogues are between equals. ‘Act with the responsibility for history’ is yet again pointing to the support rendered by United States to China during the civil war and the unequivocal commitment to One China Policy proclaimed by Nixon administration in 1972. It may be recalled that the United States withdrew the recognition accorded to Republic of China (RoC or Taiwan now) and accorded sovereign recognition to PRC by establishing diplomatic relations by 1977. Interestingly, notwithstanding the Taiwan Relations Act and the assurances that Blinken referred to in his statement, RoC is not diplomatically recognized by the USA even now. ‘Neither should try to shape the other side by its own will’ is a statement of intent, for it reflects the resolve to act in its own interest where China feels that the other side is obstructing such intent.


On the part of the United States, Blinken’s statements reveal the actual purpose of the visit and the strategic ambiguity that pervades the United States’ policy on Taiwan. He refers to the trade relations that have reached an all-time high of $700 bn, clearly showcasing that ‘de-coupling’ is not an option for USA. With the elections in America next year, the fallout of adverse action by China on employment and business in America could impinge electoral outcomes.


He also pointed to the ‘unfair’ trade practices by China, without realizing that the WTO regime that was set up by the USA had adopted similar practices in favour of America’s interests in the developing world. The strategic ambiguity concerning Taiwan was not merely perceivable but was evidently stated when Blinken referred to ‘On Taiwan, I reiterated the longstanding U.S. “one China” policy. That policy has not changed. It’s guided by the Taiwan Relations Act, the three Joint Communiqués, the Six Assurances. We do not support Taiwan independence’. It was apparent that he was attempting to walk on two ropes, on the one side assuring China that Taiwan’s independence is not supported, and on the other, stating that the United States will continue to arm Taiwan using the Taiwan Relations and other acts/agreements.


One of the prime objectives of the visit appears to be to elicit assurances from China not to arm Russia in the current crisis, pointing to the need for vigilance over private Chinese firms. Ironically, companies from America and its allies provide precisely those kind of technologies to China in Xinjiang and elsewhere even though America decries human rights violations officially. This dual stance perhaps arises from Adam Smith’s notion that pursuit of wealth by individuals (and corporations) should not be limited by governments. However, such a belief in pursuit of wealth by corporations would go against the grain of the same Adam Smith who argued for morality in the Theory of Moral Sentiments before he penned the Wealth of Nations. It would therefore appear that while China has evolved a clear perception about American intent, the United States is yet to evolve policies and programs stepping beyond industrial and colonial era practices of European nations. Faith in an universal order is possible when both developed and developing nations accept and adopt equity and transparent equitable practices.


References


(Dr. R Srinivasan is an independent researcher and the Managing Editor of Electronic Journal of Social and Strategic Studies (www.ejsss.net.in). He can be contacted at srinivasan.r961@gmail.com. The views expressed in this review are those of the author and does not reflect the views of C3S.)

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