US-China Tensions Rising Over Trade, Taiwan
The White House said Wednesday a virtual summit between President Joe Biden and Chinese President Xi Jinping is being planned for later this year.
The announcement followed a meeting in Zurich between national security adviser Jake Sullivan and his Chinese counterpart Yang Jiechi. The move comes as tension between the countries increases over Biden administration demands that Beijing cease military pressure against Taiwan and live up to its trade commitments.
In the past several days, China has sent about 150 military jets into Taiwan’s air defense zone, prompting warnings from the Biden administration.
“The activity is destabilizing. It risks miscalculation, and it has the potential to undermine regional peace and stability,” said U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken.
Taipei considers itself independent, but Beijing sees it as a breakaway province. Chinese pressure on Taiwan has become another flashpoint amid ongoing Washington and Beijing tensions.
Timothy Heath, a senior international defense researcher at the Rand Corp., said, “Although concerning, I don’t think that the risk of war is high. I don’t think the Chinese are interested in provoking a war. Neither is the U.S.”
The U.S. maintains unofficial relations and defense support for Taiwan while upholding the “One China” policy, recognizing Beijing over Taipei — a position reaffirmed during a September phone call with Xi, Biden said earlier this week.
“We agree, we’ll abide by the Taiwan agreement, that’s where we are, and we made it clear that I don’t think he should be doing anything other than abiding by the agreement.”
However, the United States has been ramping up pressure on China, saying it hasn’t complied with a January 2020 deal in which Beijing agreed to buy $200 billion more in American goods and services by 2021. The administration is keeping tariffs on $350 billion worth of Chinese goods.
Katherine Tai, U.S. trade representative, said, “We will use the full range of tools we have, and develop new tools as needed, to defend American economic interests from harmful policies and practices.”
The U.S. also has been shoring up alliances with Indo-Pacific powers, including Australia, which it will help equip with nuclear-powered submarines under the recent AUKUS deal. Biden also hosted the leaders of Australia, India and Japan at last month’s Quad summit.
But Washington has been left out of the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership, a massive free trade deal among 10 Southeast Asian nations and five partners, including China.
It has also been left out of the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership an Obama administration-backed trade deal that former President Donald Trump withdrew from in 2017.
Abraham Denmark, the Asia Program director at the Wilson Center, said, “It will be increasingly difficult for the United States to maintain our economic advantages in the Indo-Pacific, especially as China has recently applied to join the CPTPP.”