US-China talks could end up inflaming trade tensions #Breaking112
US Secretary of State Tony Blinken and National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan will head into the two-day meeting with Chinese counterparts Wang Yi and Yang Jiechi in Anchorage, Alaska, carrying a lot of baggage.
For now, it’s more likely that other political disputes will dominate the conversation in Anchorage, according to William Reinsch, a trade expert at the Center for Strategic and International Studies who served for 15 years as president of the National Foreign Trade Council.
The two countries have clashed recently over a number of issues, including Beijing’s crackdown on Hong Kong, a former British territory, and allegations of widespread human rights abuses in the western Chinese region of Xinjiang.
China is hoping the Alaska meeting will decouple politics from trade, and eventually lead to a rollback of US tariffs as well as its commitments to buy more US goods. America isn’t ready to make concessions.
“I don’t think it has sunk in yet the limited flexibility the president has in light of the sharp shift in US public opinion against China and strong demands in Congress from both parties for a hard line on China,” Reinsch told CNN Business. “So trade and technology remain issues, but the other issues, particularly human rights, right now are higher on the list.”
Neither side has indicated that they see Anchorage as a place for meaningful change in their relationship, either. The Biden administration has stressed that the summit is “a one-off meeting” that is “very much intended as an initial discussion.” And Beijing has said it does not have “high expectations” for the event.
“Downplaying hopes for the meeting reflects domestic politics — on the US side, Biden wants to avoid appearing to be too soft with Beijing — but also the broader state of the relationship,” wrote Eurasia Group analysts in a research note last week. “Neither the US nor China is willing to make concessions that the other believes is necessary to meaningfully relax tensions.”
Human rights issues, meanwhile, may actually exacerbate some of the major economic pain points down the road.
“The Biden administration will link human rights issues to exports [and] sales of technology,” said Alex Capri, a research fellow at Hinrich Foundation and a visiting senior fellow at National University of Singapore. “Expect to see more export controls and sanctions against Chinese interests.”
“Biden’s ‘Build Back Better’ platform is actually a more coherent version of [Make America Great Again], when it comes to reshoring and ring-fencing strategic industries,” Capri told CNN Business, pointing to potential efforts to remove China from pharmaceutical, semiconductor, battery, rare earth and artificial intelligence supply chains as “just the beginning.”
Correction: An earlier version of this story misstated the location of Xinjiang within China.