Signs of a Thaw in U.S. Relations with China and Russia
Meetings held between U.S.Deputy Secretary of State Wendy Sherman and leading officials of China and Russia opened the prospect for an improvement of relations, after reaching new lows at the end of the Trump administration and the beginning of the Biden presidency. Sherman met with Chinese of ficials in Tianjin on July 25-6, followed by a meeting with her Russian counterpart, Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryab kov, in Geneva on July 28. Given that the Chinese hosted the meeting in Tianjin, Vice Foreign Minister Xie Feng used the opportunity to outline the reasons the Chinese hold America responsible for the deterioration of relations. As reported by William Jones and Michael Billington in an article in the August 6 issue of Executive Intelligence Review, Minister Xie did not mince his words. He said that “the stalemate in U.S.-China relations was solely due to the policies of the U.S. government, which manifested a whole-of-society campaign to bring China down. He raised some of the more prickly issues, including what he called the “conspiracy theory” about the Wuhan Virology Institute, and claims of genocide and forced labor in Xinjiang province. He stated that, in the past forty years, “the Uyghur population in Xinjiang has doubled, life expectancy has doubled, life is becoming richer, and the level of education is continually increasing… How can this be ‘genocide’?”
After making this case, Xie said that the U.S. should “change course and choose to meet China halfway, respect each other, compete fairly, and coexist peacefully.”
Following the meeting with Xie, Wendy Sherman met with Foreign Minister Wang Yi, who developed similar themes. In response to charges made by Wang about U.S. efforts to undermine China’s development policy and its outreach to other nations, she insisted that the U.S. has no intention to restrict China’s development, nor to contain China, and the State Department read-out said they discussed areas where they can work together.
A similar process unfolded in the meeting with Ryabkov, which occurred as part of the Strategic Stability dialogue agreed to by Presidents Biden and Putin during their June 16 summit in Geneva. Both sides described the meeting in positive terms, with the U.S. saying it was “professional and substantive.” Ryabkov called it “very down to earth, very businesslike, very focused, conscious and rational.” The two sides agreed to a follow-up meeting of the Strategic Stability dialogue for the end of September. It is too early to tell exactly whether this thaw will have legs. The Biden administration is continuing the sanctions policy of its predecessors, with new sanctions imposed against Chinese officials over the crackdown against regime change forces in Hong Kong, while Biden and his team continue to issue warnings against alleged Russian involvement in cyber warfare and “threats” against Ukraine, among other outstanding issues. One area where there is profound potential for collaboration rather than geopolitical confrontation is in addressing the crisis in Afghanistan, following the withdrawal of U.S. and NATO forces after 20 years of futility.