With US-China relations at an all-time low, President Biden spoke with Chinese leader Xi Jinping on Thursday. The White House released a statement saying the two leaders had “discussed areas where our interests converge,” but many are skeptical the phone call could resolve the long list of disagreements between the world’s two biggest economies.
Those disagreements have reached a boiling point in recent years, as China ramps up both its domestic social programs and public image abroad. Gordon Chang told The Cats Roundtable that the US approach to China under Biden was a return to the same Pre-Trump era tactics that had enabled China’s current posturing.
“It’s a very dangerous brew,” Chang said on Sunday about the growing US-China tension, adding Xi was moving China “in directions which are very dangerous” for America and her allies.
In pursuit of it’s own policies, Beijing has embraced strange bedfellows. As the US withdrew from Afghanistan, the Taliban announced it’s closest international partner would be China. Chang told The Cats Roundtable that China had its eye on the former US military base at Baghram.
“China’s also inserted itself into other places, in our hemisphere, and around the world,” Chang said, adding China had supported the Taliban “through thick and thin.”
But despite the strange, anti-American allegiances in Afghanistan, it was the growing aggression from Beijing towards Taiwan that caused him most concern. He reported that Chinese incursions into Taiwanese airspace were a near daily occurrence. He said Beijing was clearly sending a “warning not only to Taiwan but also to the United States.”
Chang also noted Xi was overseeing a new social reformation inside China. That social reform has culminated in the Communist Party’s banning of men it deems too “effeminate” from media, as well as new restrictions on video games.
“Beijing wants control, and they believe Chinese society is going in ways that it doesn’t like,” Chang explained. “The one thing that Xi Jinping is doing is he’s trying to manage behavior all the way down. Not just political behavior, but also social behavior.”
As Beijing tightens its grip on its own citizens, Chang wondered how Biden’s approach could contend with China’s attempt to export its control around the world. He told The Cats Roundtable Trump had been the only president to flip the script, forcing China into a stand-off that seemed to deter Xi’s ambitions.
“Unless Washing changes its approach to Beijing, we’ve been adopting this engagement theory for almost half a century, and it hasn’t worked,” Chang told The Cats Roundtable. “I think if we start trying to deter Beijing rather than trying to engage it, we will get to a better place. This was what President Trump was doing. But Biden has reversed much of that approach.”
Chang warned Biden’s weak-arm approach in the US-China relationship would only end up “encouraging the Chinese to be even more aggressive.”
With Beijing clambering for territorial, technological, and social dominance, Biden’s phone call, the second with Xi during Biden’s presidency, and the first contact between the two leaders in months haven’t lifted the current lows. To many, it’s just a confirmation of what we already know.