Two weeks ago, there was an incident between a Chinese and an American warship in the strait Taiwan. To China it was a „legal” and „safe” joint exercise, but to the US it was „unsafe and unprofessional.” More worrying than the threat of conflict is the media coverage of the world’s greatest superpowers.
Washington has not declared it a diplomatic incident, thus underscoring its concern to prevent further escalation. „I think it will be a long and difficult process to reestablish communication channels with Beijing,” Noah Parkin, China analyst and senior adviser at Rhodium Group Research, told DW. He estimates that Blinken’s visit to China will be part of a „delicate process” and without major results.
Blinken and Chinese Foreign Minister Qin Gang are expected to discuss China’s support for Russia over Taiwan, Ukraine and reports of a security facility. Chinese espionage in Cuba.
Kurt Campbell, the White House coordinator for Indo-Pacific affairs, believes that despite growing Chinese irritation over Washington’s commitment to a region Beijing considers its backyard, „both sides are interested in maintaining stable, clear and open communications.”
Competing with China in Asia
US President Biden announced a „new era” of cooperation in the Indo-Pacific region in 2022, involving more than a dozen Asian countries, including Japan, the Philippines and South Korea.
The US has access to four more military bases in the Philippines alone.
In addition, the United States is concerned that China may be supplying Russia with weapons against Ukraine, for which there is no evidence so far. On the other hand, Beijing might ask why the U.S. and its allies would consider arming Russia any differently than they would Ukraine, asks Dean Cheng, chief adviser at the Institute for Peace in the United States.
A senior U.S. official described Blinken’s mission as a „very important series of engagements” coming at a „critical time” with President Biden’s visit to Beijing in late 2023. Such a summit would help stabilize the conflict over Taiwan. .
No one likes conflict
„I don’t think anyone wants a conflict in the Taiwan Strait. But it’s hard to send the right messages, especially in Beijing where they see everything happening in Taiwan as a provocation,” analyst Parkin said.
Since the appearance of the Chinese spy balloon in February, members of the US Congress have outdone themselves in their „tough on China” rhetoric. The Chinese side, which faces export restrictions on high-tech chips and other futuristic technologies, is expected to ask Washington for concessions, Parkin said.
Parkin sees trade as the most promising source of stability as „the United States and its allies are struggling to find the best way to avoid conflict” despite export sanctions. US technology export sanctions against China, implemented last October, cover everything from software to equipment used to make advanced computer chips. Cheng said it had come as a „shock” to Chinese leaders to find they were „dependent on Western software and hardware”. And China is expected to guarantee that the US will withdraw from export restrictions.
In addition, dozens of human rights organizations have signed a letter ahead of Blinken’s visit to Beijing on issues ranging from the genocide of the Uyghurs to press freedom. Blinken faces no less a challenge than repositioning American positions and building bridges to avoid a major diplomatic disconnect.