China’s top leader, Xi Jinping, rolled out the red carpet for President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva of Brazil, praising him as “an old friend of the Chinese people.” He had tea in the garden with President Emmanuel Macron of France, treating him to a performance of a ancient Chinese zither. And he spoke on the phone with Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, the de facto ruler of Saudi Arabia, give good wishes for the Muslim holy month of Ramadan.
But even as Mr. Xi has stood ready to help those and other world leaders in recent weeks, it has been a cold shoulder to the United States. China has rejected efforts by the Biden administration to restart high-level talks and de-escalate tensions over Taiwan. And Xi’s government has ramped up a campaign of mockery and criticism of the United States and Western democracy.
Taken together, efforts to strengthen ties with America’s allies while openly discrediting the United States reflect Beijing’s tough stance as relations sink to their lowest levels in years. over the past decade what Xi has described as Washington’s “containment, encirclement, and suppression” of China.
Some analysts see the two-pronged approach as compelling evidence that Xi is fully committed to the view that engagement between China and the United States is fruitless, at least for now. . And it has raised concerns that the two powers are on the verge of a collision that could lead to dangerous accidents, or even war, for Taiwan and other geopolitical hotspots.
Xi’s diplomatic attempt was rejected by the United States and some of its closest allies this week, when a meeting of the top G7 diplomats gathered in Japan and vowed to jointly address China’s growing assertiveness. But Xi still got some of the response he and other Chinese officials had hoped for in recent months, denting some of the alliances that underpin Washington’s influence.
During Mr. Xi’s meeting with Mr. Lula, the Brazilian leader opposed the continued dominance of the US dollar in trade and visited a research center run by Chinese telecom giant Huawei, which is under attack. United States sanctions. Mr. Macron praised Europe’s autonomy and warned against letting the US get dragged into the Taiwan war. And Crown Prince Mohammed praised China’s development “constructive role” in the Middle East, a not-so-subtle attack on the United States and its strained relations in the region.
At the same time, Chinese state media condemned the “risks” and “abuses” of US hegemony, and criticized the US for human rights, racism and gun violence. It has seized leaked Pentagon documents to highlight how Washington has been spying on its allies. And it mocked the Biden administration for hosting a summit on democracy last month, describing US democracy as “troublesome”, “messy” and “in constant decline”.
Beijing’s tougher line reflects its frustration with a series of US moves, especially regarding Taiwan, a self-governing island claimed by China. Taiwan’s President, Tsai Ing-wen, visited the United States earlier this month and met Kevin McCarthy, the speaker of the House of Representatives. On Monday, Taiwan said it had reached an agreement to buy up to 400 US anti-ship missiles to help fend off a potential Chinese invasion.
Then there are the joint military exercises the United States is conducting with the Philippines, the largest in decades.
Those moves incorporate deeper resentment focused on US restricts exports of advanced semiconductors China and the growing security ties between the United States and countries on China’s periphery such as Japan, South Korea, Australia, and India.
For Chinese officials, US pleas for a resumption of diplomatic engagement – including a long-awaited phone call between Mr Biden and Mr. Xi – have become meaningless in the face of what they consider is growing hostility and provocation. High-level negotiations can only proceed after the United States has demonstrated “trustworthy sincerity by concrete action,” Chinese state media said last week.
“The responsibility for the current difficulties in China-US relations does not lie with China,” Wang Wenbin, a spokesman for China’s foreign ministry, said recently when asked about the resumption of dialogue with China. Washington and the possibility of rescheduling a visit to Beijing by the Secretary of State. State’s Antony J. Blinken was suspended after the appearance of a suspected Chinese high-altitude spy balloon over the continental United States in February.
Wang added, “The United States should stop interfering in China’s internal affairs and harming China’s interests, and stop undermining the political foundation of our bilateral relations. emphasizes the need to put ‘barriers’ to this relationship”.
The Biden administration has said it wants to set up “fences” to prevent incidents from spreading due to misunderstandings in hotly contested areas such as the South China Sea and the Taiwan Strait, where China conducts military exercises. A live-fire battle in response to Ms. Tsai Anh Van’s visit. Without protocols and direct lines of communication, the risk of incidents would remain high as US and Chinese forces patrol the area regularly, and usually at close range.
Beijing sees the fences as another form of deterrence because they will reveal to the United States how far it can exert pressure without triggering a military response. China wants its red lines to remain ambiguous and let Washington guess.
China suspended most military dialogue with the United States last August following a visit to Taiwan by former House Speaker Nancy Pelosi. The Pentagon said most recently last week, Beijing declined requests to contact Defense Secretary Lloyd J. Austin III and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Mark A. Milley.
Mr. Blinken expressed optimism that high-level talks will be resumed.
“My expectation is that we will be able to move forward. But it requires China to make its intentions clear in doing that,” he said on Tuesday when speaking to reporters at a Group of Seven meeting in Japan.
Analysts say Mr. Xi may believe he has no interest in talking to President Biden at this point, especially as negative views of China in the United States become increasingly entrenched. possess.
“Xi clearly believes that getting engaged for the sake of engagement is stupid. The time to talk is over. Instead, it’s time for Beijing to knock down the hatches,” said Craig Singleton, a senior China fellow at the nonpartisan Organization for Defense of Democracies. “Simply put, things will never go back to the way they were, so now Xi Jinping must prepare China for a more risky future.”
Minxin Pei, a professor at Claremont McKenna University who studies Chinese politics, said it was likely that Beijing would re-engage with Washington once it felt it had more leverage. That could happen after Beijing tightens ties with more non-aligned countries like Brazil or after Beijing deepens divisions in Europe over how closely it follows the United States in its tougher stance. for China.
“China wants to engage the US from a strong position, and clearly China is not in that position right now,” Pei said. “If it does, America’s success in rallying allies and waging a technology war against China demonstrates that it is still far more powerful than China and has more tools at its disposal.”
China is now trying to cross the line between belittling the United States diplomatically and trying to convince central banks and investors that it reopen for business after years of strict Covid measures.
Yi Gang, governor of China’s central bank, met Jerome Powell, chairman of the Federal Reserve, on the sidelines of the World Bank and International Monetary Fund meeting in Washington last week to discuss the economy. economies of their countries. Plans are also underway for Finance Minister Janet Yellen and Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo to visit China.
But Mr. Yi also has grievances. Instead, he criticized Western countries for diverting trade from China to geopolitical allies, using the term “friendship” in a statement to the International Monetary and Financial Commission on Wednesday. Six.
Chinese analysts said that the prospect of improving Sino-US relations in the near future is still far away. The modest progress that Mr. Xi and Mr. Biden made after their meeting in Indonesia last November almost disappeared following the hot air balloon incident and Ms. Tsai’s visit to the US, said Wu Xinbo, dean of the department of studies. international studies at Fudan University in Shanghai, said.
“From China’s point of view, although Biden showed a good attitude in Bali, he is not really willing to improve Sino-US relations,” Wu said. “China believes that the US is neither sincere nor capable of improving relations.”
Olivia Wang contribution report.