Foreign Affairs
How to Foster Stronger China-US Relations in 2023

In 2023, Chinese President Xi Jinping and US President Joe Biden agreed to re-establish contact and dialogue to improve China-US relations. The Republican control of the House of Representatives following the US mid-term elections made it impossible for Biden to pass legislation through the anti-China US Congress, allowing him to adjust his China policy.

The 20th National Party Congress of the Chinese Communist Party ushered in new leadership, prioritizing economic growth and stabilizing China-US relations. Tensions between the two countries reached a critical point, necessitating urgent measures to avoid confrontation, including the risk of war due to incidents in the Taiwan Strait and the South China Sea.

In December 2022, senior diplomats from both countries met near Beijing to finalize US Secretary of State Antony Blinken’s visit to China in February 2023. However, the Chinese balloon incident halted these efforts, and Washington decided to shoot down the balloon and postpone Blinken’s visit to China, aligning with heated anti-China sentiments at home.

Blinken’s visit to Beijing in June was successful, involving a meeting with Chinese President Xi Jinping. Both sides agreed to maintain communication and implement measures to stabilize their relationship. Following Blinken’s visit, senior officials from both countries began reciprocal visits, with US officials including Janet Yellen, Gina Raimondo, and John Kerry visiting China. Chinese Minister of Foreign Affairs Wang Yi, Chinese Vice President Han Zheng, and Chinese Vice Premier He Lifeng represented China in US visits.

A US congressional delegation led by Chuck Schumer in October 2023 was significant as it endorsed Biden’s efforts to stabilize relations with China. The two sides agreed to set up working groups to discuss economic and financial matters, maritime affairs, foreign policy, arms control, non-proliferation, and climate change. In November 2023, an agreement was reached to expand cooperation, ensure the success of the COP28 climate summit, and revive a working group dedicated to cooperative efforts in this area.

The Xi-Biden summit in San Francisco on 15 November 2023 marked a significant milestone in the history of China-US relations, with over 20 consensuses reached. Despite domestic oppositions, the summit was considered successful, as the leaders reaffirmed their commitment to renewing contact and dialogue. They agreed to resume military dialogues to prevent accidental conflicts, open dialogue on artificial intelligence, and work together on specific issues like fentanyl and climate change.

However, the state of China-US relations can be viewed as a weak rebound due to structural factors such as ideological divide, significant political systems, substantial economic governance differences, and deep-seated strategic distrust.The historical lows in the popular view of each other are evident.

The US presidential election in 2024 is expected to further complicate the situation, with candidates competing on who can be tougher on China. China’s response to this is uncertain, and if a Republican candidate is elected, the progress made in stabilizing relations is likely to be reversed. The direction of the scales of history in this relationship remains uncertain.

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