China ‘overly optimistic’ on relations with US, Beijing adviser says

  • There may be signs of a thaw, but tensions won’t significantly ease in the foreseeable future, according to Shi Yinhong
  • The international relations expert says the US won’t stop trying to contain China, especially its military and tech development

A government adviser in Beijing has cautioned against being too optimistic about signs of a thaw in relations with Washington, saying the US will not stop trying to contain China.

Shi Yinhong, an international relations professor at Renmin University and adviser to the State Council, China’s cabinet, said consensus would be hard to reach given the nations’ long-standing differences.

The world’s two biggest economies are at loggerheads over a long list of issues, from trade and technology to the origins of the pandemic, human rights, and China’s territorial claims.

“The relationship between China and the US is now in a situation where tensions are still high but it is frozen or suspended there, compared with the past eight months, and it will not significantly ease in the foreseeable future,” Shi said at a book launch hosted by the Centre for China and Globalisation think tank in Beijing on Monday.

He said there had been signs of improving ties, citing the return of Huawei Technologies executive Meng Wanzhou from Canada after US prosecutors dropped an extradition request for her.

Shi also noted that US government officials had toned down their rhetoric over alleged human rights abuses in Xinjiang and had been relatively quiet after an inconclusive US intelligence report into the origins of Covid-19, while President Joe Biden had avoided directly criticising China in remarks at the UN General Assembly last month.

There are reportedly plans for a virtual summit between Xi Jinping and Joe Biden before the end of the year. Photo: AFP


There have also been high-level talks between the two sides in recent weeks, including a meeting between top Chinese diplomat Yang Jiechi and White House national security adviser Jake Sullivan in Zurich.

But while tensions may have stopped rising for now, Shi said US policy on China remained unchanged, pointing to a remark made by White House press secretary Jen Psaki last month that the nations were in a relationship of competition.

“China is a bit overly optimistic now,” he said. “Chinese people always have a short memory – if the US president so much as smiles or something, they get excited.”

The government adviser did suggest the trade war could ease, noting that US trade representative Katherine Tai said last week that a process would begin to exempt some goods from Trump-era tariffs. “But it [the trade war] will continue to a large extent,” Shi said, adding that it could also escalate again since China had not met requirements agreed under the phase one trade deal last year.

Shi said the US would spare no effort to contain China, especially its military and technology development.

His remarks were echoed by Liu Weidong, a researcher with the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences. Liu, who did not speak at Monday’s event, agreed that “the overall trend hasn’t changed significantly” and said relations would need to improve before the nations’ leaders could hold talks.

There are reportedly plans for President Xi Jinping and Biden to hold a virtual summit before the end of the year.

Authors: Amber Wang, Kinling Lo, South China Morning Post

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