China-U.S. relations: Who will blink first?
Chinese State Councilor and Foreign Minister Qin Gang (L) holds talks with U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken in Beijing, China, June 18, 2023. /Chinese Foreign Ministry
Chinese State Councilor and Foreign Minister Qin Gang (L) holds talks with U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken in Beijing, China, June 18, 2023. /Chinese Foreign Ministry

Chinese State Councilor and Foreign Minister Qin Gang (L) holds talks with U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken in Beijing, China, June 18, 2023. /Chinese Foreign Ministry

Editor's note: Stephen Ndegwa, a special commentator on current affairs for CGTN, is the Executive Director of South-South Dialogues, a Nairobi-based communications development think tank. The article reflects the author's opinions and not necessarily the views of CGTN.

On June 18, Chinese State Councilor and Foreign Minister Qin Gang held talks with U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken in Beijing. As representatives of two of the most powerful countries in the world today, Qin and Blinken addressed a variety of bilateral and global issues. During their talks, Qin highlighted that the China-U.S. relationship is at the lowest point since its establishment, which does not serve the fundamental interests of the two peoples or meet the shared expectations of the international community.

For the last couple of decades, the world has been treated to the drama of a conflict that it has no idea about. However, with the salvos of belligerence perennially coming from one direction, it is now clear who is to blame in the U.S-China drama. The U.S. has sought to undermine China's socioeconomic development.

The U.S. and China are major powers. The difference is that one, obviously the U.S., is hegemonic, while its counterpart has taken a multilateral view of the world. Blinken's agenda in Beijing is two-fold.

One, he is seeking to keep the lines of communication between the two countries open in order to give a semblance of friendship to their bilateral relations. But the U.S. cannot be a genuine friend with its two-faced façade. For instance, while it talks about easing its protectionist tariffs against Chinese products, it turns around and drafts a negative list of Chinese tech products on accusations of espionage. A similar list is also drawn for goods allegedly produced using forced labor. The endgame is to curtail China's development due to envy and fear of being displaced from its number one position.



Blinken is the first member of President Joe Biden's cabinet to visit China, which has taken a rather long time if Biden has been serious about a rapprochement. Indeed, experts see the trip as just another window-dressing attempt by Biden's administration to show the world that the U.S. is proactive in seeking amicable relations between the two.

While Qin has emphasized in his talks with Blinken that "China is committed to building a stable, predictable and constructive relationship with the U.S.," it seems that the U.S. has made efforts to deviate itself from this goal.

Blinken's visit was postponed ostensibly because of the sighting of an alleged "Chinese spy balloon over the U.S." Well, the "Chinese espionage" narrative has been a readily available scapegoat in attempts to curtail China's rising technological prowess in the world, from social media to military technology.

In a case of obvious malice, the U.S. government has banned the sale and importation of technology from several top Chinese companies. The U.S. attributes these shenanigans to an "unacceptable risk" to its national security. But few are fooled by these anti-trade sanctions. They are aimed at poisoning the vast market for Chinese technology around the world and, most importantly, in the West with its multi-billion-dollar market.

During Qin's talks with Blinken, the former pointed out that the Taiwan question is the core of China's core interests, the most consequential issue and the most pronounced risk in the Sino-U.S. relationship. However, in fact, the U.S. has frequently challenged China's bottom line. In one of its latest actions, the United States has signed a trade agreement with China's Taiwan region over opposition from the Chinese government.

In an interview published by NPR on June 16, Zhu Feng, an international relations professor at Nanjing University, says although he is pessimistic about such an eventuality, the U.S. should be the first to show its willingness to compromise. He is quoted saying, "Right now, the most important thing is the U.S. has locked in on China as its biggest strategic rival, and this is the consensus of the American entire strategic policy establishment, and so there cannot be any substantial movement on the current suppression of China."

China has bent over backwards to accommodate U.S. demands, and in trying to achieve win-win solutions and outcomes over contentious issues. China has been patient and understanding of its counterpart's actions and fears, and has explained itself at great lengths to remove the underlying insecurities. But there is a limit to such goodwill. Just as Qin said in their talks, "The two sides should deliver on the common understandings reached by President Xi and President Biden in Bali in letter and spirit, and work to stabilize and steer the relations back to the right track." A better Sino-U.S. relationship needs efforts from both sides.

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