China’s recent effort to seek better relations with the United States have been conspicuous. However, if China continues to threaten Taiwan and other countries with its military power, it is unlikely the situation will improve.
In a telephone conversation with President Joe Biden in September, Chinese President Xi Jinping called for “urgent stabilization of relations.” In his speech before the U.N. General Assembly, he announced the “suspension of new exports of coal-fired power plants.”
The suspension of exports was in response to a demand by the United States, and could be considered an appeal for global cooperation on climate change.
The detention of Meng Wanzhou, vice chair of Chinese telecommunications giant Huawei, an episode thought to have symbolized the conflict between the U.S. and China, has also been settled. Meng has agreed to a plea bargain with U.S. authorities and has returned to China after almost three years.
China has agreed to maintain dialogue between its military authorities and the U.S., and arrangements are being made to hold a face-to-face summit between the U.S. and China.
Why is China’s policy, all but set in stone, changing?
Xi is about to decide whether he will continue as supreme leader at the Communist Party Congress next fall. To avoid the “worst-ever U.S.-China relations” becoming a pretext for criticizing him within the party, he may want to prevent the conflict from spiraling out of control.
The Beijing Olympics will be held next February. U.S. and European countries are considering a “diplomatic boycott” and to cancel sending a government delegation because of China’s human rights violations with respect to the Uighurs.
Xi may have decided that a certain amount of improvement with respect to U.S relations is necessary for the”success” of the Olympics.
The U.S., too, has emphasized the need for cooperation in such areas as climate change and infectious disease control, while seeking to compete with China militarily and technologically. It is important for Biden and Xi to meet in person in order to advance this dialogue.
On the other hand, China has not ceased military provocation in the South China Sea and East China seas, nor halted its repression of human rights in Hong Kong and elsewhere. Since the beginning of this month, a large number of Chinese military aircraft have forcefully entered Taiwan’s air defense identification zone, and have continued to pose an unprecedented threat.
The creation of AUKUS, a new security framework by the U.S., Britain and Australia, and the strengthening of cooperation among the Quadrilateral Security Dialogue (Japan, the U.S., Australia,and India), are all efforts to deal with this current situation.
Xi must recognize that his disregard for the rule of law and universal values are leading to increased pressure on China.
The new Kishida administration needs to work with the U.S. to strengthen deterrence against China. The Kishida government should be clear in saying that that China’s threats against Taiwan are an act that undermines regional stability, an act that Japan cannot ignore.