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President Biden, please practice what you preach
First Voice

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"We are not seeking a new Cold War or a world divided into rigid blocs," U.S. President Joe Biden proclaimed at the United Nations General Assembly. "All the major powers of the world have a duty, in my view, to carefully manage their relationships so they do not tip from responsible competition into conflict."

Good to hear, very good to hear. Now, it is time for Biden to lead America in a way that lives up to his own words.

So far, America's actions have been betraying those words. Ethan Paul at the Quincy Institute for Responsible Statecraft wrote in a response to Biden's speech that the American hegemony has "inebriated" Washington to the point that America forgot it has already divided the world into "rigid" blocs – America's "hub-and-spokes" alliance in Asia being a primary example. And that if China and U.S. had switched places, Paul believes that "Washington would never accept the degree of strategic vulnerability that it asks of Beijing." If Chinese alliances and bases have surrounded the U.S., "absolute pandemonium and mayhem would break out in Washington," and the U.S. "would be set on a permanent war footing."

U.S. Navy's amphibious assault ship America at Sasebo naval base in southwestern Japan, December 6, 2019. /Getty

U.S. Navy's amphibious assault ship America at Sasebo naval base in southwestern Japan, December 6, 2019. /Getty

All that has taken place seems to be confirming Paul's words. On September 24, mere days after Biden's speech, he will be hosting the leaders of the Quad – U.S., India, Japan and Australia – for the first in-person meeting at the White House, consolidating a decades-long effort in building up an anti-China bloc in the Indo-Pacific region. The U.S. stepped up its nuclear presence in the region by helping the Australians with deploying nuclear submarines. And the central theme of Biden's foreign policy is building an "alliance of democracies" – describing global affairs as a contest between "democratic" countries and "authoritarian" ones.

China is seen as a part, if not the leader, of the "authoritarian" camp.

Deliberately or inadvertently, Biden has defined the world in Cold War terms since he took office. He talked about engaging with China through negotiations, but it had to be from a "position of strength." And clearly, that strength means that the American position has to hold – tariffs are still in place, "genocide" is still used in every sentence involving Xinjiang, and COVID-19 is still China's fault. Tensions are rising in the South China Sea as the U.S. pushes more military resources into the region, as it cobbles together a group of countries that seek to dominate in those waters.

America's intransigence in holding on to this notion of "strength" and its overbearing desire to appear to come out on top of everything strangles its ability to see things from China's point of view. "Carefully managing their relationships," as Biden desires, cannot be achieved with one side making demands, threats and ultimatums and, if they are not complied with, disregard the other side's positions as illegitimate and bulldoze them. Neither China nor the United States would be willing to make things work when the guns are pointed at their heads constantly.

U.S. President Joe Biden, top left, Yoshihide Suga, Japan's prime minister, top right, Scott Morrison, Australia's prime minister, bottom left, and Narendra Modi, India's prime minister, on a monitor during the virtual Quadrilateral Security Dialogue (Quad) meeting, March 12, 2021. /Getty

U.S. President Joe Biden, top left, Yoshihide Suga, Japan's prime minister, top right, Scott Morrison, Australia's prime minister, bottom left, and Narendra Modi, India's prime minister, on a monitor during the virtual Quadrilateral Security Dialogue (Quad) meeting, March 12, 2021. /Getty

Relationship management is a two-way street. Both sides must be willing to take it slowly and make compromises along the way to get to smooth sailing. Biden seems to have no problem with the former, but surprisingly lacking in the latter given his years of experience in foreign policy. To avoid a new Cold War means giving each other enough space to develop and act in its own way. Dictating terms and how others should behave will doom the world into another cycle of hard-knuckled competition that mires the common people in fear and despair.

China has made the effort to convey its messages. During a visit by U.S. Deputy Secretary of State Wendy Sherman, China set out its boundaries on bilateral relations with the U.S. If the U.S. sincerely seeks to manage its relationship with China, it should start by treating the redlines as legitimate and see China as an equal instead of a country that has to be cowed.

As you walk into meetings with the Quad members, President Biden, remember you've said that you don't seek a new Cold War or to divide the world up. It is time for America to do exactly what you've said. The world is watching.

By Huang Jiyuan

(If you want to contribute and have specific expertise, please contact us at opinions@cgtn.com.)

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