What you need to know:
- The effects of poor China-US bilateral relations spilled over to the individual level when the rhetoric targeting the most populous country and its people became normalized on the streets during the pandemic.
The Xi-Biden side meeting during this year’s G20 summit in Bali, Indonesia, presents an opportunity toward better understanding of the long-troubled but necessarily enduring relations between China and the United States.
The mid-November meet clears the air regarding some areas of misunderstanding between the two; tensions seemingly historically inevitable between any fast-industrializing nation capable of exerting global influence and an already established power which has long considered itself a world regulator on trade, security, and politics.
For decades now, the US and its allies appear to peddle anti-China discourses and actions overtly or covertly, with the aim to tarnish the image of the rising Asian nation and to slow its economic growth and technological advancement.
These include branding the country as among the worst in human rights observance, in environmental protection, and even as the producer of counterfeit and substandard goods. The worst has been meddling into China’s internal affairs such as the administration of territories, especially Hong Kong, Taiwan and Xinjiang, inciting unrest among ordinary people and heightening tensions in the regions.
Restating its commitment to global development, President Xi Jinping of China reaffirmed his country’s continued pursuit of peaceful development, win-win cooperation, and a development agenda for the greater good of all members of the international community.
More importantly, President Xi stressed that China-US relations should not be a zero-sum game where one side out-competes or thrives at the expense of the other. He further added that the world is big enough for the two countries to develop themselves and prosper together.
The Mid-November meeting marked the first time Xi and Biden met since the latter assumed office from his more polarizing predecessor, Donald Trump, during whose time China-US relations proved more tumultuous, with the COVID-19 pandemic further souring them.
The effects of poor China-US bilateral relations spilled over to the individual level when the rhetoric targeting the most populous country and its people became normalized on the streets during the pandemic. This especially assumed the form of anti-China and anti-Asian hate crimes with the branding of the Coronavirus as ‘China virus’ or ‘Wuhan virus,’ a rhetoric which the former US President played a major role in popularizing.
Consequently, discrimination and physical attacks increased against Chinese people and other Asian-looking individuals in the US and other parts of the world, especially in the West and west-leaning countries.
The anti-Asian rhetoric backfired on the US itself leading to increased hate crimes against Asian Americans to the extent that it had to pass the COVID-19 Hate Crimes Act in May 2021 and spend a significant amount of its tax dollars to launch programs aimed at raising awareness of non-discrimination among its people.
Thanks to the fact that Mr. Biden possesses less drama compared to Mr. Trump, the two countries can have a sigh of relief from the otherwise childish undertakings that travelled from the individual actor in US politics to the country’s institutions, although the governing structures and the philosophy may remain largely unchanged.
On another level, President Xi’s commitment to global development made him appeal his colleagues in his speech during the summit to support the most struggling economies by making them able to provide for their people. This included considering the African Union’s membership into the G20 to make it G21 or G20 +1.
By doing so, the world will help around 1.4 billion people address the challenges of food insecurity, education, and access to health services that most countries on the continent have battled since attaining their independence in the 1960s.
A renowned American scholar, Jeffrey Sachs, made a similar call a year ago during the 2021 United Nations’ Food Systems Pre-summit in which he called for the powerful countries to focus more on saving and sustaining humanity rather than to obsess about power.
The more these countries become economically sound the more their purchasing power increases, and the better the economic and personal interactions is actualized within and between countries in the international system.
Thereby, a more win-win multipolar cooperation would ensue in the long run than allowing the otherwise monopolistic tendencies in trade and other issues which result in power imbalances economically, socially, and politically.
The Xi-Biden meet presents a new promise of better understanding at the state-level, but it needs to trickle down to make sense for ordinary people both in China, the US, and beyond, and the media can do a good job of capturing all the key messages to disseminate to the public rather than cherry-picking to suit the Western agenda.