The candid and extensive strategic communication between Chinese President Xi Jinping and his US counterpart Joe Biden sent the world a signal that both sides expect to bring their relations back on track. The signal should be translated into real changes, and that needs the US to walk the talk.
In a phone conversation on Friday, Xi pointed out that both countries must provide a good answer to the question of whether they can handle the relationship well. Biden said that the two countries have no interest in letting competition veer into conflict.
China has always maintained consistency and frankness on the direction of bilateral relations. But some recent US policies and acts toward China have seriously hindered the development of bilateral relations. Take the US provocations on the Taiwan question as an example. Washington was reported by the Financial Times on Saturday to be considering a request from the Taiwan's Democratic Progressive Party to change the name of the Taipei Economic and Cultural Representative Office into the “Taiwan Representative Office.” In August, some US officials voiced support of Lithuania for allowing the authorities in Taiwan to open a so-called representative office under the name of “Taiwan.” In April, the US State Department issued new rules for US government interaction with Taiwan to encourage engagement.
Even though Biden pledged during Friday’s phone call that the US has no intention to change the one-China policy, these moves unequivocally dishonored the US commitment. The Taiwan question is the most important and sensitive issue at the core of China-US relations, and the one-China principle is the political foundation of the bilateral ties. The “self-contradiction” of the US is an epitome of its old trick: offering rhetoric while doing the opposite. This severely harms the trust of the dialogue between the two countries. Washington should mate its words with deeds.
In the phone call, Xi and Biden identified some key areas for the world’s two largest economies to tackle, such as climate change, and expressed hope for more engagement and cooperation.
As Biden noted, the US is prepared to hold dialogue with China in certain areas and hopes to avoid miscommunication, miscalculation and unintended conflict. It is high time for the US to abandon its two-faced attitude toward China. On one hand Washington acknowledges that some regional and global issues cannot be addressed without China’s presence and engagement, and on the other hand it continues to push forward its strategies of containing China. Expecting China to collaborate unconditionally while harming China’s interests is unrealistic in the relationship.
Progress of normalized China-US relations for over four decades has proved that the two countries gain from cooperation and lose from confrontation. Steering China-US ties, one of the world’s most important bilateral relationships, to the right course is a must for both sides. As a turnaround of the bilateral relationship is anticipated by the international community, Washington should be more consistent with its words toward China for more constructive outcomes following the call between Xi and Biden.