The United States and China are in the process of redefining their relationship. China is no longer content to play second fiddle to the U.S., and the U.S. is increasingly insecure about China's growing global power.
In recent years, the growing distance between the two world powers has culminated in a series of flashpoints.
Former President Donald Trump started a "trade war" with China in 2018 by imposing tariffs on billions of dollars of Chinese goods, increasing economic tensions. In 2021, former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo accused China of committing genocide against Muslim Uyghurs and other ethnic and religious minority groups in China's Xinjiang region. Current Secretary of State Antony Blinken maintained this assertion. Former House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) visited Taiwan in the summer of 2022, angering Beijing leaders who classify Taiwan as a rouge province that needs to be reintegrated into China. A U.S. fighter jet shot down a Chinese spy balloon floating over the continental United States in February.
In recent months, a number of U.S. officials have traveled to China in an attempt to repair the relationship, but in outlets across the political spectrum, there is a consensus that relations between the U.S. and China are at historic lows.
This was the backdrop for Wednesday's meeting between President Joe Biden and Chinese President Xi Jinping.
The two leaders met in San Francisco and seemingly came away with a handful of agreements. Xi agreed to clamp down on Chinese companies exporting chemicals used to make fentanyl, fueling the U.S. opioid crisis, and both leaders agreed to resume military-to-military communications that were cut after Pelosi's visit to Taiwan.
Will this meeting pull the U.S.-China relationship out of its downward spiral? That remains to be seen, but in the eyes of columnists across the spectrum, things may never get back to how they once were.
One writer in the New York Times Opinion (Left bias) bid farewell to the "golden age" of U.S.-China relations, during which time American policymakers "rooted for China’s economic success and worried about the risks that a failed and starving China would pose for the world," whereas now they "look for ways to frustrate China’s ambitions, worried about the risks a successful but still authoritarian China poses for the world."
A writer in Vox (Left bias) determined the biggest victory of Biden and Xi's meeting was "the meeting itself." The Biden Administration has been "seeking calm, often saying that the administration doesn’t want a new cold war with China even as some of its policies suggest otherwise. His national security cabinet has shuttled to Beijing and in the process built confidence that diplomacy remains the best path forward with China."
Right-rated voices were especially critical of Biden's diplomatic approach to China.
The National Review Editorial Board (Right bias) determined both Democrats and Republicans agree that the "Chinese Communist Party is a threat to the United States" and urged Biden to adjust his diplomatic posture, stating, "Xi is just buying time as the party continues to pursue a historic military buildup and deal with economic and social problems at home. Its overall intentions remain malign. The Biden team is not acting as though it recognizes it."
A writer in the Washington Examiner (Lean Right bias) accused Biden and Democrats of "grotesque whitewashing of and pandering" to Xi. "This is the same man responsible for carrying out a genocide of the Uyghurs in Xinjiang, a massive human rights abuse that includes forced labor (which has its ties to China’s climate projects that are so prioritized by Democrats and corporations) and forced sterilization."
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More from the Center
"During a news conference, Biden reiterated Washington's acceptance of the One China policy, which acknowledges only one Chinese government, and means it has formal ties with the People's Republic of China rather than the Republic of China (Taiwan), which Beijing claims as its own. But the U.S. sells arms to the self-governing island under the Taiwan Relations Act and Washington is looking to increase ties with Asian nations as a counterweight to Beijing in the Asia-Pacific region."
More from the Left
"While Washington often argues that despite irreconcilable strategic goals, the US and China can work together — on climate or global security, for instance — Beijing is less publicly effusive about the idea. Right now, opening up slightly to the US appears to be in Xi’s interests. But the forces driving the powers toward further confrontation are broad and volatile. Meeting low bars at a moderately successful summit will not change the fundamentals of their rivalry."
More from the Right
"Apart from being an avoidable tragedy, America’s deadly drug crisis makes us an international laughingstock, the marker of a civilization on the fast track to hell. You would think the American president might be embarrassed about that fact. But, far from it, Joe Biden thinks it’s funny, too. At a glittering fundraiser in downtown San Francisco Tuesday night, Biden began his speech by thanking Mayor London Breed for 'welcoming us to your city. It kind of sparkles right now.' The White House press office transcript indicates that “laughter and applause” greeted his droll observation."