Xi and Biden Must Overcome the Hawks to Forge a New U.S.–China Relationship

As President Joe Biden prepares for his meeting with Chinese leader Xi Jinping at the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation summit in San Francisco on Nov. 15, he faces an epochal choice. Will the U.S. government bow before belligerent demands for intensifying confrontation and exclusion, or will it seek to deepen the recent diplomatic opening between the two countries?

On one side stand critics of the Biden administration, such as the Republican members of the House of Representatives select committee on China, who demand that discussions with China be ended unless they result in complete surrender to their demands. Those calling for confrontation seem heedless of the terrible consequences now looming from a conflict pitting the world’s two most powerful countries against each other.

On the other side is the potential for a mutually beneficial modus vivendi between our nations, which could establish a newly inclusive and prosperous global system. Though the Biden Administration has begun to explore the possibilities of diplomacy with China, it also finds itself caught in zero-sum formulations of the relationship that are likely to strengthen restrictive and exclusionary measures at the expense of both competitive and cooperative opportunities.

U.S. debate today conceals the dangers of our current China policy by terming every antagonistic policy a form of “competition.” In reality, exclusion is the opposite of competition. Where competition is a relationship between two parties that necessarily entails connection and has the potential to be carried on in healthy ways, exclusion is an attempt to sever both competitive and cooperative connections. Unlike competition, the victim immediately understands exclusion to be an illegitimate form of aggression. If the victim is strong enough to fight back and the domain from which they are being expelled is consequential enough, conflict is a likely outcome.

Read the full piece in Time Magazine.