In an exclusive interview with Ta Kung Pao recently, Xu Jian, President of the school of foreign affairs, pointed out that compared with Trump’s wanton destruction of Sino US relations, Biden administration’s China policy will return to rationality, and CO opetition will become the main tone. Epidemic prevention and control is a top priority, and it may also be a breakthrough for cooperation between the two sides. However, the United States is currently facing an unprecedented political crisis of division. Biden’s action is limited to the controversial measures left by the trump administration.
About Xu Jian:
Dr. Xu Jian, currently president of the Foreign Affairs College, enjoys the special allowance of the State Council.
He has served as counsellor of the Chinese permanent mission to the United Nations, Minister counsellor of the Chinese Embassy in Russia, director of the academic committee of the China Institute of international studies, and vice president of the China Institute of international studies.
Limited action in Hong Kong Policy
Ta Kung Pao: what kind of Hong Kong policy will Biden formulate on the Hong Kong issue, and will he lift the sanctions against Hong Kong adopted by the trump administration?
Xu Jian: the Democratic Party traditionally emphasizes the values of human rights, so he may not immediately cancel some unreasonable measures taken by the trump administration against the Hong Kong issue. I’m afraid we can’t expect too much. However, the general situation and the overall situation of the Hong Kong issue, no matter from the political or economic level, have been decided. It does not depend on the policy of the United States. The central government has the determination and ability to control the political stability of Hong Kong and ensure the prosperity and stability of Hong Kong’s economy. Biden administration is faced with a lot of domestic political constraints, which is also the characteristic of this US administration. It is a very divisive and serious political crisis. Therefore, his ability to act on these controversial issues is relatively limited.
Epidemic prevention and control is a top priority
Ta Kung Pao: after Biden takes office, what do you think will be the first areas of cooperation between the two sides? In the face of the “United States of America”, domestic issues are undoubtedly a top priority. Some experts predict that Biden will really face China in the second year of his term of office. Do you agree?
Xu Jian: after Biden came to power, the potential areas of cooperation between China and the United States are still quite wide. Epidemic prevention and control is a top priority, and it is also the easiest and most urgent area. Because the epidemic itself is the biggest challenge facing the world, including China and the United States, the situation facing the United States is particularly severe. Epidemic prevention and control itself is mainly a technical problem, not a political one. It should be expected that the Biden administration should be more rational than the trump administration and regard the epidemic situation more as a scientific issue rather than throwing the pot and smearing China.
According to Biden’s political statements before and after his election, there are still many areas where China and the United States have potential for cooperation, such as climate change.
To be sure, at the beginning of his term of office, his primary task was internal affairs. He would have a strong tendency to look inside. His main focus was to deal with the epidemic situation and solve the problems of internal political crisis, economic recovery and social division. However, the internal and foreign affairs of the United States are closely intertwined to a large extent. Therefore, after he came to power, he always had to consider or face China’s factors for domestic and foreign affairs.
Technical decoupling eased
Ta Kung Pao: how do you predict the decoupling of Sino US trade and technology during Biden’s term of office? What problems do you think will be alleviated in the non-governmental exchanges between China and the United States?
Xu Jian: the problem of decoupling between economy, trade and technology may be eased, and the friction and competition in the field of economy and trade will not be completely eliminated. Biden’s administration, from himself to his team, may be more rational on economic and trade issues, and the atmosphere of Sino US relations will be eased. The trend of decoupling high technology may continue. We need to be prepared.
From the perspective of non-governmental exchanges and education of overseas students, it is possible that through joint efforts, the two sides can strengthen communication and get some relief, but it is unlikely to go back to the situation 10 years ago.
Taiwan issue as the political bottom line
Ta Kung Pao: the Taiwan issue involves China’s core interests. What kind of control methods should the two countries adopt? In the critical period of the Chinese government’s promotion of reunification, how to shape a favorable strategic posture for China?
Xu Jian: the Taiwan issue is China’s internal affairs, the most sensitive issue in Sino US relations, and also the most important core issue. The Chinese side should make the Biden administration understand in an appropriate way that the Taiwan issue is related to the overall situation of Sino US relations, and there is no room for playing with fire and games here. If the United States does not return to the three joint communiques on the Taiwan issue and continues to try to break through the bottom line as the trump administration did, it will be extremely dangerous. In terms of the balance of power, compared with 40 years ago, our ability to solve the Taiwan issue, whether by peaceful or non peaceful means, is not what it used to be.
From Biden and his team’s understanding of China, it should not be difficult to understand the above situation. If we commit a crime deliberately, the Chinese mainland can completely ignore the attitude of the United States. We can learn from the experience of Sino British negotiations on the issue of Hongkong and stop talking with the US side about Taiwan issue. We can solve the Taiwan issue in the way we think we are right.
Democratic tradition and trump legacy coexist
Ta Kung Pao: what is the difference between Biden’s China policy orientation and Trump’s? Under the background of great changes and rebalancing of world power, please predict Biden’s positioning of the keynote of Sino US relations?
Xu Jian: the trump administration’s China policy in the past four years has almost destroyed the foundation of Sino US relations. There is a lot of uncertainty about how the Biden administration will deal with the big holes dug by his predecessor. My view is that it is difficult for his China policy to completely get rid of the influence of some legacy of the Obama administration at least in the short term. In particular, the Democratic Party’s foreign policy emphasizes ideology and values. At the same time, it is difficult to get rid of the influence of the legacy of trumpism in the short term. For example, during the Sino US trade war, trump unilaterally took many unreasonable measures. Biden will not immediately cancel the relevant measures.
In my opinion, Biden administration’s China policy is likely to have a co competition situation, that is, competition is the main factor, plus a certain degree of cooperation. This situation is different from that of the first two stages, because there are qualitative differences between competition, containment and confrontation, especially the benign competitive relationship. With the rise of China’s national strength, the United States is more likely to choose this strategy of competition and cooperation with China. Its main focus is to strengthen competition with China and even contain it to a certain extent. At the same time, it does not rule out maintaining a certain degree of cooperation with China.
Watch out for signs of pseudo multilateralism
Ta Kung Pao: during his recent visit, State Councilor and foreign minister Wang Yi mentioned that the implementation of “pseudo multilateralism” will cause new divisions, oppose the ideologization of multilateralism, and build ideological alliances for specific countries. These are obviously based on some signs.
Xu Jian: it is very important that state councilor Wang Yi put forward the concept of “pseudo multilateralism”. Multilateralism is open in nature and must be inclusive, which is the significance of multilateralism. The exclusive and closed multilateral mechanism is “pseudo multilateralism”;. This phenomenon is not uncommon in history. The most typical example is NATO.
Biden clearly mentioned in his article “diplomacy” that when he came to power, he would hold a summit meeting of countries based on common values, and also mentioned building a value Alliance for China. Whether or not this proposal will be implemented after taking office is at least a wake-up call. This is a new form of “pseudo multilateralism”. At least it is in the process of brewing and there are risks. This is not conducive to the peace, stability and sustainable development of Sino US relations, and it is also not conducive to the world if we allow it to develop.
Sino US relations are related to national rejuvenation
Ta Kung Pao: you mentioned in your article that the US factor is the last barrier between China’s rise and national rejuvenation. Do you have any suggestions on the strategic choice of consolidating China’s strength?
Xu Jian: we must grasp the Sino US relations from a strategic height, raise it to the height of the great cause of national rejuvenation, and realize that time is on our side, and the general trend of Chinese national rejuvenation is irreversible. As long as there is a relatively peaceful and stable external environment, we will be able to constantly approach and finally achieve the great goal of national rejuvenation. On the other hand, if there are major problems, even conflicts or confrontations in Sino US relations during this period, the situation is very severe for both sides, and the pace and speed of the rejuvenation of the Chinese nation will be impacted and delayed.
In the period when the great cause of national rejuvenation of the motherland blends with the great changes that have not happened in the world in a century, we should always maintain a rational and tolerant attitude to look at the domestic and international situation and Sino US relations. First, we should do our own thing well, then we should further expand the strategy of reform and opening up, constantly adapt to the process of world multipolarization, make more contributions to the world according to our own ability, stabilize Sino US relations, and maintain and create an important period of strategic opportunities for our national rejuvenation.
The concept of community of human destiny transcends three pitfalls
Ta Kung Pao: in the article “the adjustment of U.S. China policy and the three major risks of Sino US relations”, you mentioned: Thucydides trap, cold war trap and Goldberg trap. What are your new views on the three traps of future Sino US relations?
Xu Jian: whether Sino US relations can be maintained in the future depends largely on whether the two sides can surmount the three interrelated and different traps.
Beyond these three traps, the most powerful ideological weapon is the concept of community of human destiny. This concept occupies the core position in Xi Jinping’s diplomatic thoughts, which reflects the great theoretical innovation of Xi Jinping’s diplomatic thought in inheriting and developing the Marx doctrine in the twenty-first Century.
To transcend the cold war trap is to talk about the concept of a community of shared future for mankind, to put aside the ideological contradictions among the great powers, and to understand and grasp the relations among the great powers with a new cognitive paradigm. Under the trend of globalization, countries with two social systems share a globalized market and a globalized production chain. They can only coexist peacefully, coexist peacefully, compete peacefully, and see who is better and who is worse. This theoretically goes beyond the ideological paradigm of international political cognition, that is, the relationship between the two systems can only be a life and death relationship.
To transcend the Thucydides trap is to talk about the security interdependence between big powers. Nuclear deterrence among major powers is here. It is impossible to solve contradictions and problems by force. We can only sit down and talk about it.
Transcending the Goldberg trap is about the common responsibility of big powers in international governance. In addition to bilateral relations, big countries bear more responsibility for jointly maintaining world peace and development than small and medium-sized countries. In addition to doing our own thing well, we need to work together to provide public goods for the international community.