Biden-Trump Virtual Summit

UNITED States President Joe Biden and China’s President Xi Jinping in their virtual meeting on  Tuesday have agreed on the need to “responsibly” manage their  relationship but fell short of reaching a breakthrough on any of the  issues dividing, among them recently the issue of Taiwan that has led to increasingly confrontational ties.

The two leaders spoke for over three hours with both trying to build on their old familiarity since the days the two were vice presidents of their respective countries. Biden called for “common sense guardrails to ensure that competition does not veer into conflict.” He also underlined the “importance of managing competition responsibly.” And Xi, for his part,  said “mutual respect, peaceful coexistence and win-win cooperation” should be the “three principles” guiding ties.

The summit is a welcome development at a time when the relations between the two countries have nosedived.  But the two countries will need to make a herculean effort to recover from the bitterness of Biden’s predecessor Donald Trump. Trump’s  approach to China had threatened to start a new cold war. Trump had launched a full-fledged economic war with China by raising tarrifs on Chinese goods which left world economy bruised in its wake.  Geo-politically, Trump’s  America First policy and protectionist measures had made the world an unstable place. He had withdrawn US from many of its global power engagements in the world, straining even the military alliance like NATO and alienating the European Union, the bulwarks of the world order led by US. Trump had even trashed  the multilateral agreements which previous administration had played an instrumental role to rally the world around. One such critical agreement was the Paris Climate accord.

Biden, on the other hand, has largely reversed the course taken by Trump.  He has taken a different path on issues ranging from coronavirus and health care to the environment, education and more. Under him, the US has rejoined Paris Climate Agreement.

But on China, Biden like his predecessor has adopted a tough posture. He has accused China of violating international trade rules, subsidizing its companies and stealing U.S. intellectual property. But he doesn’t think Trump’s tariffs have worked and wants to join with U.S. allies to form a bulwark against Beijing. He has pledged tough negotiations with China on trade and intellectual property matters. But his virtual summit with Xi is a good beginning and hopefully it go some way in the management of their tough relationship.

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