“China is not going for the jugular… [it’s] develop these countermeasures in a way that punishes the United States without harming itself too much at the same time,” said Bonny Lin, former country director for China in the office of the Secretary of Defense and director of the China Power Project at the Center. for strategic and international studies. “There are things [on the list] that we haven’t made meaningful progress with China, that we have a common interest in making, but they’re not going to significantly move the boat in terms of overall US-China relations.
China’s list of targeted areas of cooperation excluded pandemic-related trade and health security, suggesting an official effort to mitigate a potential backfire that could hurt China’s interests. “It seems disappointing…there are a lot of things in the area of what I call China’s core concerns that they leave untouched,” said Yun Sun, director of the China program at the Stimson Center.
Top of the list of bilateral cooperation items targeted by Beijing was the cancellation of three upcoming military-to-military meetings, including the China-US theater commanders’ talks, defense policy coordination talks and meetings of the military. military maritime consultation agreement. These cancellations are disturbing given the lack of existing US-China military crisis communications at a time when People’s Liberation Army forces are conducting an unprecedented level of ongoing live-fire military exercises near the gate. -USS Ronald Reagan aircraft.
High-level bilateral military contacts have long been a contentious issue. Beijing has repeatedly rebuffed Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin’s efforts to secure a call with his Chinese counterpart, Wei Fenghe. Austin finally managed to talk to Wei in April after almost 18 months of trying.
“We want more open communications, especially between our armies at a time like this,” National Security Council spokesman John Kirby said Friday. “Because when you have so much military hardware steaming, sailing and flying, the chances of misperceptions and miscalculations only increase.”
But the relatively modest nature of the canceled talks suggests Beijing’s cancellation was more form than substance.
“These are all useful commitments, but those that are not at the highest level and…[bilateral] communications will remain open,” Ret said. Vice Admiral Robert B. Murrett, professor of practice at the Maxwell School at Syracuse University. “I hope that instead of being cancelled, these [meetings] are actually just suspended and that cooler heads will prevail next year.
The announcement of the cancellations allows Beijing to speak publicly about Pelosi’s visit while allowing time to accompany them in the coming months. This performative aspect of the Chinese response reflects President Xi Jinping’s domestic political considerations and the need to restore his image as a stubborn defender of China’s territorial integrity. This effort is particularly urgent in the run-up to the fall’s 20th Communist Party Congress, where Xi is widely expected to emerge with an unprecedented third term as supreme leader.
“The problem for Xi Jinping is that he has to look tough in front of the Party Congress – already, online [in China] some point to the weakness of the Chinese response to the visit,” said Anthony J. Saich, director of the Ash Center for Democratic Governance and Innovation at Harvard’s Kennedy School.
The Chinese government has hammered home its outrage over Pelosi’s visit – which Beijing sees as an unacceptable expression of US support for Taiwan independence – in a meet on thursday between Chinese Ambassador Qin Gang and Kurt Campbell, the Indo-Pacific Coordinator of the National Security Council. Qin’s talking points likely mirrored those in a screed he published in The Washington Post on Thursday in which he warned that Pelosi’s actions had “sparked outrage among China’s 1.4 billion people.”
The Chinese Embassy in Washington reiterated that stance, saying China was blameless in a bilateral fury that could have disastrous geopolitical consequences. “The United States and Taiwan initially made provocations together, while China was forced to act in self-defense,” Jing said Friday. “[Taiwan] is one of the few issues that could lead China and the United States to conflict or even war.
Despite this rhetoric, the relatively small impact of the Chinese foreign ministry’s response suggests that Beijing wants to express its displeasure without gutting bilateral relations. “They’re cutting cooperation in areas where we’re trying to get them to cooperate, but we weren’t seeing too many results,” Lin said. “Anything [restricted] on much larger security or commercial links would have a greater impact.
But China’s decision to suspend US-China climate talks change drew heavy criticism from the White House. “They think they’re punishing us by shutting down this channel — they’re actually punishing the whole world because the climate crisis doesn’t recognize geographic boundaries,” Kirby said.
Close observers of U.S.-China climate cooperation are expressing hope that the suspension of talks will be strictly temporary and that the two sides can resume the commitment on reducing carbon emissions in the near future.
“It definitely stings given the bilateral engagement looming in the coming weeks ahead of COP 27…. I hope and expect talks to resume well before the end of the year said Joanna Lewis, an associate professor at Georgetown University and an expert on China’s climate policies.
US lawmakers grappling with the thousands of overdose deaths in the United States each year from illicit fentanyl made from Chinese raw materials are appalled by China’s decision to suspend US-China cooperation in the fight against drugs. This is particularly disappointing because despite our disagreements with China on a host of issues, counter-narcotics cooperation has been a bright spot in bilateral relations over the past few years. said Rep. David Trone (D-Md.), co-chair of the Biden administration’s Commission on Combating Synthetic Opioid Trafficking.
GOP lawmakers see Beijing’s retaliation for Pelosi’s visit as further evidence that China’s ruling Chinese Communist Party cannot be considered a reliable partner, even on issues of clear mutual interest.
“It is clear from these actions that the CCP is not interested in avoiding conflict, upholding the rule of law, stopping its flow of toxic drugs into the United States, or cooperating on climate,” said non-commissioned member Rep. Michael McCaul (R-Texas). of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, said in a statement. “The Biden administration’s policy of ‘cooperating wherever we can’ with the CCP is unrealistic, and I urge them to face the reality of the CCP, not what they wish it to be. that is.”
Meanwhile, the White House is bracing for the possibility of further Chinese retaliation for Pelosi’s trip to Taiwan in the days ahead.
“It’s hard to know exactly what the Chinese side is thinking here in terms of intent and duration…we would like to see tensions ease immediately,” Kirby said.
Nicolle Liu and Lara Seligman contributed to this report.