The future of China-US relations

Common sense, regional balance and diplomacy stand out when it comes to crisis management between Beijing and Washington, whose asymmetrical differences have eroded.

Following the NATO summit in Brussels and the meeting between presidents Joe Biden and Vladimir Putin, all eyes have now turned to China.

The recent NATO Brussels Summit Communique emphasised that China’s international policies and its increasing influence could create difficulties that would need to be dealt with by NATO as a whole.

China-US relations date back to the end of the 18th century. Having gone through several ups and downs throughout the years, relations have continued uninterrupted, with commercial interests playing a key role in their relations.

The volume of financial and commercial relations between Beijing and Washington, the two largest economies in the world, is also crucial on the global scale. These relations have brought the two countries into a highly complex and irreversible level of interdependence in the short to medium term. However, this interdependence has also created a type of "erosion" regarding their differences in the context of security and foreign policy.

The power of diplomacy

President Biden and President Xi had their first meeting on the phone on February 10. After this call, President Biden noted that his priority is to preserve the security, welfare and health of US citizens. He criticised China’s failure to provide transparency in the fight against Covid-19, coercive and unjust economic practices, the oppression in Hong Kong, the violations impacting the Uighurs in Xinjiang and regional issues, including those in Taiwan.

The Biden administration has put a series of regulations against China on his agenda and announced that trade and investment talks with Taiwan — a sensitive topic for China.

Instead of solely targeting China, the Biden administration is trying to build an alliance with countries that share the same discomfort regarding intellectual property theft and trade secrets, and who have been subjected to similar injustices in the past.

When it comes to the question of whether China is a threat or not, it depends on the ultimate goal of NATO and the US. It all depends on whether the international community will accept China and allow it to shape global politics.

The Biden administration will likely not get into a Cold War type situation with either Russia or China. Thanks to President Biden's willingness to solve issues with other countries through diplomacy, there might not be drastic ups and downs in the relations between the US and China. But it does not mean that China is not a threat to other NATO allies: the areas of cybersecurity, China's infrastructure projects and global investments, as well as unfair and illegal trade actions, are also some areas of concern.

The key to creating an effective long-term policy toward China is to work closely with the leading economies of the world and renegotiate the set of rules. Today, the Chinese economy is such that it can impose its own will onto almost every country — except the US — through trade diplomacy.

This was seen in recent weeks, when Pakistan’s Premiere, Imran Khan, was asked why he did not do anything regarding Uighurs. Khan responded by expressing gratitude to China for economic support and underlining their good partnership.

China’s ‘globalisation’

China began building an economic zone, in a sense, a "globalisation" starting from the Pacific coast, passing through Central Asia and Europe, and stretching to the Atlantic coast with the "One Belt, One Road" project. In fact, in 2020, China surpassed the US and became the biggest commercial partner of the EU.

The strategic competition between the US and China will not be like what the US experienced with the Soviet Union during the Cold War. Apart from the major tension in the Korean peninsula, the strategic competition between the US and China will likely continue to be in the sea and air rather than on land.

The Biden administration places great importance on the Asia-Pacific and the steps taken toward close cooperation, including stronger military partnership with South Korea and Japan as a long knife against China.

The clear blame voiced by the US against China during the Covid-19 pandemic has increased the tension between the two countries even further.

Common sense, respective interests and regional balance stand out when it comes to the crisis management between the two countries, whose asymmetrical differences have gradually eroded.

The economic and commercial relationship between two countries is a very important factor for overcoming the tensions between them.

When it comes to Turkey, it appears that Ankara is proceeding with a policy of staying on China’s good side while maintaining ties with the US and West. Ankara would be forced to decide on its China policy, if NATO takes more actions against China under the NATO 2030 vision.