Wendy Sherman, Deputy Foreign Minister – SU’s second highest diplomat – will meet with Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi in Tianjin, China, on Sunday in a tense situation dominated by friction on a number fronte.
Last Monday, US President Joe Biden – along with NATO, the European Union, Australia, the United Kingdom, Canada, Japan and New Zealand – charged China with a wide-ranging cyber-espionage campaign, which Foreign Minister Antony Blinken said “poses a major threat to our economic and national security”.
The U.S. Department of Justice has charged four Chinese citizens working with the Chinese State Department on a campaign to hack into the computer systems of dozens of companies, universities and government agencies in the United States and abroad between 2011 and 2018.
The allegations were refuted by Beijing as “made from the air‘, And on Friday it’s sanctions against US individuals announced as a response to US sanctions against Chinese officials in Hong Kong, which are already exacerbating tensions between US and China over trade disputes, China’s military build-up, tensions over the South China Sea, Beijing’s repression of democratic activists in Hong Kong and the treatment of Uighurs in its Xinjiang region.
Despite its rapid build-up, China is still militarily mustered by the US; online, however, it has found a more equal playing field.
‘China has long been looking for asymmetric areas where it can exert influence in a way that does not challenge American domination and precedence … It takes a lot of money, time and expertise to build a modern navy, but in cyberspace there is a lower threshold. because he had an impact, ”said Matthew Funaiole, Chinese analyst of foreign and security policy at the Center for Strategic and International Studies.
Earlier this month, Chinese President Xi Jinping celebrated the centenary of the Chinese Communist Party – the country’s central nervous system – with an hour-long speech on his chest that included threats to other nations to get out of China’s affairs. remain and faithfully tell the party: “We do not accept holy preaching from those who feel they have the right to teach us.”
This status quo is far from when the two superpowers first thawed diplomatic relations half a century ago. With Sino-Soviet relations on the verge of an ideological split and subsequent border splash, Mao Zedong – China’s Great Helmsman – considered it pragmatic to plan a diplomatic course closer to the US, also in conflict with Moscow by the authorized war in Vietnam and led by the Realpolitik of US President Richard Nixon. Nixon’s national security adviser Henry Kissinger secretly visited China in July 1971, paving the way for the US president’s visit next year.
“It was a counter against the Soviets – the enemy of my enemy is my friend,” said Isaac Stone Fish, CEO of Strategy Risks and author of America Second: How America’s Elites Are Making Stronger China. ‘[It] was a success from a foreign policy perspective … and mostly removed China as a threat to the US. ‘
This relationship continued during the Cold War, and although President Ronald Reagan was ideologically and initially more pro-Taiwan, he later threatened to accept China because of its strategic importance.
‘Reagan has been reminded that the Chinese are basically a member of NATO – because they keep more than a million Soviet troops; In addition, we are placing a CIA listening post in Xinjiang to monitor Iran, the Middle East and the Soviets. We had a tacit alliance, ‘said Stephen McKinnon, a professor of Chinese history at Arizona State University.
The relationship escalated in 1989, following China’s bloody repression of student-led protests in Tiananmen Square. Although President George HW Bush expressed his dislike of the United States and halted arms sales to China, his political enemies eased his strong ties with Beijing, having been stationed there in 1974 as the United States’ chief liaison officer. of an ambassador for diplomatic ties. was established.
‘[Bill] Clinton addressed the issue very explicitly when he played against Bush in ’92 … [calling] his response to Tiananmen’s weak knees and promised to take a stricter line on human rights, ”said Bennett Freeman, who worked on Clinton’s election campaign and later lead speech for Secretary of State Warren Christopher.
This promise manifested itself in a policy that exploited the most beneficiary nation-state (MFN) – sought after by China because it lowered trade tariffs – with overall progress on human rights at a time when it was accelerating market reforms.
“The line – ‘the software of freedom will prevail over the hardware of oppression’ – captures the optimism at the time perfectly … that the opening of China’s economy would eventually open up its political system,” Freeman told Al Jazeera .
Optimism was fueled by the recent explosion of the Soviet Union, which many in the West regarded as the victory of capitalism over communism. However, this apparent end to the Cold War had the indirect effect of removing both China’s and the US’s need for a geopolitical counterweight.
In 2001, China’s MFN status was made permanent, removing this leverage point. Over the past twenty years, the growing dependence of American companies on China’s large market and cheap manufacturing, as well as the fact that Beijing has become the second largest creditor of the USA, have given China its own set of levers.
“There’s an almost evangelical move to bring democracy to China through Boeing and Microsoft and McDonald’s … and you could argue that it has made American democracy cheaper,” Stone Fish said.
‘You could also argue that it subsequently embedded the CCP [Chinese Communist Party] in the US system and this has caused many of the [current] “problems that American businesses have – too exposed, but afraid to speak out against Chinese human rights violations,” Stone Fish told Al Jazeera.
“It would have been impossible for Nixon and Kissinger to imagine this scenario – no one is so predictable.”
Due to the US’s interdependence on China, the Biden government will have a harder time than booking Beijing using trade barriers to exploit human rights concessions; however, some are optimistic that China’s near – path problems could provide the opportunity to exert pressure.
“There have been many compromises to promote economic relations with China … not necessarily on human rights, but it may change a bit,” Funaiole said, referring to issues in Tibet and Xinjiang, a repression of Hong Kong and is coming. [it’s] more assertive towards Taiwan ”.
The U.S. Senate passed a law on the prevention of forced labor in Uyghur this month, which bans imports from the Xinjiang region unless producers can prove they were not made with forced labor, by the estimated more than one million people living there. locked up.
‘There are many [places] we can cotton comes from … you want to push Biden for a greater intake of renewable energy, but we get a lot of our solar PV technology from China and now we have questions whether there is integrity in the supply chain or not , ‘said Funaiole.
‘Our relationship with the VRC will be competitive when it needs to be, cooperation when it can be and conflicting when it needs to be. The common denominator is the need to involve the PRC from a strong position, ” a State Department spokesman said.
To clean up the developed world to take a joint stand against China’s online operations, the US might be able to take a page from China’s playbook and use access to their markets as a bargaining chip.