All this acrimony on human rights aside, there are some interesting developments in the bilateral Sino-US dynamic, and also in connection with Antony Blinken’s visit to Europe. First, in general, Chinese analysts tend to seem rather upbeat following the Alaska talks. I’d covered some comments in last week’s newsletter.
Here’s China’s ambassador to the US Cui Tiankai telling CNN that the dialogue “certainly helped both sides to have a better understanding of the other. So I hope this will be the beginning of a long process of dialogue, communication and hopefully coordination between the two sides.”
Then there’s Jin Canrong, who believes that the outcomes were “better than expected.” He adds that “the performance of the two diplomatic teams has been approved in their respective countries. On the contrary, they will cooperate well in the future, because this means that there are fewer domestic restrictions, so it is actually a good thing.” CICIR’s Yuan Peng argues that rather than being swayed by the theatrics that took place, it’s important to focus on the “comprehensiveness and constructive significance of this dialogue.” He emphasises US reiteration of the one-China policy. Here’s more (I’ve edited this text below significantly; therefore not using quotes):
In this dialogue, although the two sides have presented their differences and their respective positions...there are still common interests and need for cooperation between the two sides. First of all, the Biden administration’s domestic political agenda needs cooperation with China, whether it is in terms of epidemic prevention and control or economic recovery. Second, on major international issues, such as nuclear non-proliferation and climate change, the United States cannot do without China. Third, the reshaping or reconstruction of a new round of international order is inseparable from the cooperation between China and the United States no matter what.
He then criticises the Biden administration for not yet having a clear picture or framework for Sino-US ties. He talks about US politicians being caught in the electoral/4-year cycle and not being able to think in terms of the big, long-term picture. This is followed by a dig at the US alliance system. He talks about how US allies have “soberly realized after Trump’s four-year term that pinning their destiny in the United States will only harm their own interests in the end, because no one can guarantee that they will not come again in four years...So the US allies continue to cherish the commonality and traditional relationship between them and the US in terms of values, ideology, democracy and human rights, and at the same time, they are also thinking about how to maintain a certain degree of strategic autonomy.”
Now, with this said, Blinken was in Brussels this week. He spoke at the NATO meeting, framing the challenges for the alliance, with China being a priority. In fact, China led the list of military and non-military threats to the alliance. You can access my breakdown of Blinken’s speech here. In addition, Blinken and Josep Borrell also launched the US-EU dialogue on China. Borrell said that it will comprise “meetings at the senior official and expert levels on topics such as reciprocity, economic issues, resilience, human rights – human rights, security, multilateralism, and areas for constructive engagement with China such as climate change.”
This is an excerpt from my weekly Eye on China newsletter. You can access the full newsletter on Substack here.