The long-anticipated visit of US Secretary of State Antony Blinken to China is going to be held on Sunday 18th June. The visit was earlier postponed in February this year after the so-called “Spy Balloon” was found flying in American airspace. After the spike in tensions between US and China over a year, Secretary Blinken is the most senior in the Biden administration who is planning to visit Beijing. The confrontation stalled any opportunity of any of the senior members of the incumbent government in Washington including the President himself.
The Secretary of State’s trip to China is of great importance as the two-faced intense rivalry at many stages recently, such as the provocative trip of Taiwanese President Tsai lng-Wen and American support for Taipei.
After the confirmation of the news of the visit, the analysts were optimistic all over the world expecting a Rapprochement after the intense rivalry. The hopes faded as soon as confirmed by the State Department’s top diplomat for East Asia, Daniel Kritenbrink. “We’re not going to Beijing with the intent of having some sort of breakthrough or transformation in the way that we deal with one another”, he said.
Earlier this week, the Secretary of State held a phone call with Chinese Foreign Minister Qin Gang. The talk was meant to confirm the arrangements of the supposed visit of the US Secretary of State to China, but the two discussed differently. The US stressed opening the channels of communication “to avoid miscalculation” and “steering conflict”. While China has given the US a “Cold Shoulder”. Chinese readout stressed that Foreign Minister urged the US to “stop meddling” in the internal matters of China and respect its “core concerns” such as Taiwan. Although China is welcoming Blinken in Beijing but stressing the objectives of the trip on its terms. This is not the first time as earlier at Shangrila Dialogue, Chinese Defence Minister Li Shnagfu also refused to hold a meeting with US Defence Secretary Lloyd Austin perhaps in response to the American Sanctions on him. Therefore, why China is giving the US a Cold Shoulder even when the US is approaching to engage China, is the question, answer to which lies below.
Over a decade, the US always considered China a threat and a global competitor. This has not only induced competition between them but also generated a lack of mutual trust. There are various events in the US-China relations that have intensified the rivalry over some time. The US enables its containment strategy against China vis-à-vis thinking to compete with China in the international realm. This brought the two major powers into an intense rivalry and a cold war situation is emerging. And if Thucydides’ Trap is there, the world can’t afford another war-type situation after the Russo-Ukrainian adventure.
The mismanagement of the Chinese balloon drifted off in American airspace and its decision to destroy through air-to-air missile also boded ill for the Rapprochement between US and China.
Secretary of State quickly after the incident postponed the visit to China followed by the dissatisfaction proposed by China over the reaction. In addition to it, Washington’s lasting support for Taiwan, which China terms as an “interference in its Internal Matters, ” also reckoned the mistrust between US and China. It sponsored a trip of US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi to Taiwan last August. The US also hosted Taiwanese President Tsai earlier this year where she held a meeting with the US House Speaker. Since the day Nancy visited Taiwan, China cut off talks with American military commanders. Chinese usually express severe concerns over such events adding up questions about American “sincerity” in the matter.
And last but not least, the American bid to decouple China is also posing a challenge to reducing conflict between US and China. Earlier this year, the US pushed its allied countries in chipmaking curbs against China. Following US and Netherlands, Japan also joined the club to restrict exports of advanced semiconductors-making equipment to China. Moreover, the US also sanctioned Chinese companies recently. It has approved 7 Chinese companies and 6 people from China. These entities and the people were making fentanyl-making equipment.
To sum up what has been stated so far, US and China have lost mutual trust over the years of rivalry. The trust between the states in International Relations holds a central position in dealing with critical conflicts between two parties. As Zachary Keck, former Managing Editor at ‘The Diplomat’ noted “Trust is a Rare commodity in International Politics”, US and China must reduce the differences, enhance communication and stop confronting each other to find routes toward a rapprochement.
The writer is a Communication and Research Assistant at the Centre for Strategic and Contemporary Research (CSCR). He can be reached at Usmanalee124@gamil.com and tweets under the username @Usman_Zulfiqar_.