ince US President Joe Biden was elected, there have been heated discussions about the direction of his China policy. The consensus in both countries is that structural conflicts will continue under the Biden administration. But this doesn’t mean there is nothing China can do regarding the bilateral relationship.
Compared to the Trump administration, Biden’s presidency still presents an opportunity for both countries to stop the free fall in the bilateral relationship. If China-US relations remain stable in the next four years, the two countries could work together to establish a series of bottom-line mechanisms to prevent the China-US rivalry from running out of control.
China aims to achieve its process of socialist modernization in 15 years by making major progress in economic, military and technological development. To achieve this historic task, China must boost its ties with the world through the existing global governance system. At the same time, the US will remain the most powerful nation in the world. Despite the tense relationship with the US, a stable bilateral relationship remains a priority for China.
For its part, the Biden administration has reasons to prefer a more stable relationship with China. Challenged by the raging coronavirus pandemic, economic uncertainties and racial problems, the Biden administration’s immediate focus will be on domestic issues. On foreign policy, the Biden administration’s priority will be to resume US leadership in various international institutions and restore its ties with allies. It is not in a hurry to take action to repair the damaged China US relationship. In the meantime, the US congress and other agencies may continue to provoke China on various sensitive issues.
But as a stable China-US relationship is in China’s national interest, China can take the initiative to stabilize it. China can unilaterally further open its market and make efforts to join the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP). In the meantime, China should seek a resumption of high-level talks and military dialogue mechanisms between the two sides. China could also raise new initiatives on crisis prevention and management between the two countries.
Rather than resorting to knee-jerk reactions to comments made by some political forces in the US, China should look at the bigger picture, focusing on the factors that can shape the overall direction of the bilateral relationship.