US-China Summit: Avoiding Conflict Requires Restraint in Using Threats

For the time being, China is unlikely to change its stance against the U.S.-led international order, and will continue its aggressive maritime expansion and corresponding threats against Taiwan. At the very least, concrete measures should be taken to prevent the confrontation between the U.S. and China from leading to an unforeseen conflict.

President Joe Biden and Chinese President Xi Jinping recently held an online meeting. Biden stressed that the leaders of the U.S. and China have a responsibility to prevent their competition from turning into a conflict. Xi also pointed out the importance of the U.S. and China working together to build a stable relationship.

Their remarks can be seen as a reflection of the fact that the struggle for supremacy between the U.S. and China is fierce and tensions are rising.

The talks did not bridge the gap over the situation in Taiwan, China’s human rights abuses and unfair trade practices.

Biden, mindful of China’s increasing military provocations around the Taiwan Strait, made it clear that the U.S. strongly opposes unilateral attempts to change the status quo.

In response, Xi claimed that the cause of the tension was “Taiwan’s dependence on the United States for its independence.” He also referred to “decisive measures” if a line was crossed, and reportedly suggested that China might use force to reunify Taiwan.

This hardly suggests that China is serious about improving relations with the United States. If China does not exercise restraint in its unilateral efforts to change the status quo, including in the East and South China Seas, it will not be able to dispel the distrust of other countries.

The U.S. is showing wisdom in trying to maintain the international order by strengthening relations with Japan, Europe, India, Australia and other countries. Cooperation with China is necessary to combat climate change and infectious diseases, but compromises that undermine the rules-based international system and universal values such as human rights are not acceptable.

While avoiding a decisive confrontation with the U.S., Xi has maintained his course of pushing China to become a military, economic and technological power on par with the United States. Even though he advocates cooperation with the U.S., his true intention may be to demonstrate to his own people that he is in control of the relationship with the U.S., and to buy time for China to grow stronger.

In the run-up to next fall’s National Congress of the Chinese Communist Party, which will solidify Xi’s long-term regime, China is taking a more inward-looking stance, and Xi has not traveled abroad for nearly two years. If the leaders of other countries have few opportunities to communicate directly with Xi, the entire world situation may become unstable. Xi should resume his diplomacy in earnest and fulfill his responsibilities as the leader of a major power.

Assuming that tensions between the U.S. and China will continue, Japan must do its part to maintain peace in the region.

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