China ready to reset ties with US: Will President Joe Biden reciprocate?


N. P. Upadhyaya

Thousands of intelligent brains with penetrating eyes across the globe spotted the presence of the lady Taiwanese ambassador in Washington, Hsiao Bi-khim, during the inauguration ceremony of President Joe Biden, January 20, 2021.

The seeds of expanded conflict with China appears to have already been sown or a subtle message to China from the new US President has been sent with a purpose?

Whatever it may be, the fact is that the US has to build comfortable ties with China and vice versa at least to keep the world moving forward without vitiating the peaceful atmosphere.

The presence of Ambassador Hsiao at the inaugural event means much both to the United States of America under President Joe Biden and President Xi Jin Ping of the People’s Republic of China.

President Biden by inviting the Taiwanese envoy to the inaugural event has surely wanted to sound China that the US has some sort of special commitment to Taiwan and that the US-Taiwan ties were “unyielding”.

Taiwan’s foreign ministry said it was the first time an inauguration committee had formally invited the island’s Washington representative and showed the close friendship between Taiwan and the United States based on shared values, writes Ben Blanchard for the Reuters on January 20.

Much to the utter dismay of Beijing and adding fuel to the fire, ambassador Bi-khim tweeted a video of herself standing in front of the US Capitol building ahead of Biden’s inauguration saying, “she was honoured to attend the ceremony”, writes Chao Deng and Chun Han Wong for the Wall Street Journal on January 21. This hopefully must have pinched the “tender” heart of the Beijing regime and the latter must have taken it as a bombshell. In addition, the ambassador is talked to be a close relative of the Taiwanese President. This adds to the inflammation. New US secretary of State Antony Blinken said the other day that he was in favour of greater engagement with Taiwan.

Media sources claim that Tsai met Blinken five years ago in 2015 at the State Department when he was deputy secretary of state and she was the presidential candidate for Taiwan’s Democratic Progressive Party. President Biden utilized his inaugural by firing a bullet targeting mainland China yet there was no sound. Media in the US take this event as a major Foreign-Policy prioritized-signal to China. According to Reuters,  Emily Horne, spokeswoman for the White House National Security Council, said the U.S. commitment to Taiwan was “unyielding or rock-solid” after the island’s de facto ambassador in Washington, Hsiao Bi-khim, attended Biden’s swearing-in on January 20.

“President Biden will stand with friends and allies to advance our shared prosperity, security, and values in the Asia-Pacific region – and that includes Taiwan”, added Emily Horne. China is yet to react on the US move of the inaugural day. Yet the Chinese government in an implied manner expressed its anger by flying a spy plane into Taiwan’s air defense identification zone (ADIZ) on January 20, Joe Biden’s inauguration as the 46th president of the U.S, claims Keoni Everington for the Taiwan News on January 21.

Austin Ramzy writes in the New York Times on January 24 on the same event, ‘China sent warplanes into the Taiwan Strait over the weekend, a show of force to the Biden administration that signals Beijing’s plans to maintain pressure on Taiwan even as it calls for a reset with the United States”.

Reacting to the flying spy planes, Ned Price, a State Department spokesman said on Saturday, “We urge Beijing to cease its military, diplomatic, and economic pressure against Taiwan and instead engage in meaningful dialogue with Taiwan’s democratically elected representatives”. Whether this airborne spy plane was an act of retaliation or just a routine affair is yet to become public. The high soaring planes albeit have hinted the Chinese mood.

Donald Trump during his Presidency made it a point to enhance the US-Taiwan ties and increased arms sales and sending senior officials to Taipei which must have irked the Beijing regime. Needless to say, Beijing must not have taken Trump’s positive gesture toward Taiwan in an easy manner. For Trump, it was an act of continuously mocking China than for the latter it may have taken the US as number one “undeclared” enemy. The ground reality is that the US-China relations are in a much-tensed condition which needs immediate attention (reset) from both sides. So the stage is set for China and the US to find ways and means to ease the already boiling situation perhaps.

President Joe Biden is expected first to tackle the domestic challenges sensibly and convincingly as he has assured his population at the time of inauguration. First, hopefully, Joe Biden will concentrate his entire efforts in controlling the Covid Pandemic and early vaccines distribution.

Secondly, the US President will have to bridge of the “dangerous divide” among the population that has gripped the US during the last Presidency and work for uniting the people divided into certain lines across the nation. Then he will have to turn his eyes to sort out the differences with China which were recorded at the lowest ebb during what is best called “Trumpian” Presidency.

Apart from these, a thoroughly modest, seasoned, and a liberal political persona that is Biden had in advance set his immediate goals when in office, to recall.

An article penned by Biden for Foreign Affairs magazine as back as in April 2020, he already spelt out his foreign policy priorities. His priorities include, as per the article in the journal, the convening of a global, annual ‘Summit for Democracy’ and that too in Biden’s first year in office. Biden had marked then three core areas wherein he would demand “commitments from all countries: first “fighting corruption, second defending against authoritarianism, and the third being advancing human rights”.

International relations expert Mukhtadar Khan, Professor at the Delaware University, USA, says that new US president Biden will attach great importance to Asia in general and South Asia in particular as this vast Asian landmass has China and India together with competing nuclear Pakistan. The US Professor says that for the US in this changing times and context, Asia is very important. The US has reasons to eye on Asia because almost all are great (China, India and Pakistan) or emerging powers. India is in the Indo-Pacific Strategy club, the US interests for India will remain intact as it would be with the countries in this club that is Australia, and Japan. India almost is US tail. Ties with India will much depend on how US-China relations develop in the days ahead.

If the US under President Biden acquires a confrontational policy towards China then the Quad (Australia, Japan, and India and the US) will expectedly “activated” and told to jump jointly on China through various means as seen at times in the past. A policy of great game or containment of China will instantly begin. Raising the Tibetan affairs could be one of the handy tools for the Quad. The newly enacted bill Tibetan Policy and Support Act (TPSA) is already in place. If it is so then, India, the arch-rival of China, will do all it can to play the Dalai Lama “Card” prompting China to retaliate here and there. The US could irritate China with the issue of the selection of the next Dalai Lama as well.

It is here where the US and China both need to restrain themselves as this issue is loaded with “prestige and values” for both the conflicting nations whose ripples surely be felt in the entire South Asian region more so on Nepal. A subtle hint that China is ready to work with the US under Biden has come from President Xi Jinping while addressing the World Economic Forum in DAVOS via Video on January 25. President Xi urged world leaders to put aside ideological “confrontation” at Davos, Switzerland.

Side by side the Chinese President Xi also has said that attempts to “isolate, intimidate, decouple, and sanction” others will “only push the world into division”, even confrontation.

This is a bit tough and apparently a signal to the new Biden administration.

President Xi says, “a conflict between Beijing and Washington would be bad for everyone”. This is not a polite language if “accommodation and constructive engagement” is to be developed. Yet some modest signal too has emanated from Beijing.

China’s foreign ministry said on January 25 clarified, “Beijing would like to work with the new US administration to get bilateral relations “back on the normal track”.

Back to the story. It is believed that to tease China, Nepali soil is the most productive one. But if Biden takes on to the path of “constructive engagement” policy with China would mean much for the world peace. The US can’t afford to make China an enemy just to appease India which is clearly a Biden must understand through his South Asian ambassadors more so from Pakistan, member of the Quad and a close ally of the US. This applies to China also it can’t afford to quarrel with the US.

Biden must also keep in mind that India used to be in the camp of the USSR during the Cold War days and that India has like a chameleon changed the camp and is now with the USA. Once a known camp changer is likely to repeat the same once again if it suits to India. Indian farmers’ plight also could be a question to PM Modi from Joe Biden. Then comes how Biden will see its former Cold War ally Pakistan?

Here are the Pakistani views lucidly explained by National Security Advisor Dr Moeed Yusuf who says that his country “wants to pursue a bilateral relationship with the US that is not hyphenated or clouded by US interests in other regional countries but is based on mutual understanding”.

Dr Moeed addressed a gathering of US policymakers at the Washington-based think tank Wilson Centre titled  US-Pakistan relations in the Biden Era” last weekend through Videoconference.

Dr Moeed told the academic participants hinting the US, “now you are dealing with a different Pakistan; a Pakistan which is self-confident and whose formal vision is squarely based on economic security paradigm”.

“Pakistan is talking about becoming a geo-economic melting pot that is ready to consolidate global positive interest in our territory. We are talking about providing the world with economic-based, not military-bases,” Dr. Moeed continued.

While delving into regional peace, Dr. Moeed said, “we are dealing with a different India; an intolerant India, has serious internal tensions, human rights concerns and is taking a unilateral decision, including in Indian illegally occupied Jammu and Kashmir (IIOJK). Needless to say, India is destabilizing the region and becoming a liability on anyone dealing with it, including the US, Moeed added.

If Pakistan has this view on India then, the other smaller countries of the region also look India as a ‘living menace’ in the vicinity which beliefs in the practice of coercive diplomacy in the bilateral conducts and more so trust on destabilizing the neighbouring countries as and when these small nations differ with Indian stance on regional and international issues.

For instance, President Biden must enquire as to why the once vibrating and pulsating South Asian regional body SAARC is at the moment counting its last breath? Who has killed this SAARC? Obviously India aka Hindustan aka Bharat. Why Pakistan is being isolated in the SAARC by the Indian machinations and for what motive? Why SAARC is not being allowed to have the next Summit?

President Joe Biden must ponder over these questions and seek convincing answers from India. Biden will also be interested in questioning Prime Minister Modi on the human rights record of the Indian Union after his ascendance to power in 2014. Biden must begin with the question as to why the minority Muslims in India are being lynched. Why veteran film actors like Nasiruddin Shah and Aamir Khan remain scared in their own country of birth?

President Trump is the eye witness to the Delhi riot of February 2020.

Moreover, the US under Joe Biden is expected to “see” the smaller South Asian nations including Nepal, not through the Delhi’s “lens”. Nepal established diplomatic ties with the US much ahead of the rest of the countries in South Asia. India is a new country as compared to Nepal which is even a bit elder than the US itself. The US will incur a heavy political loss if it supports India at the cost of other SA nations.

Thus ignoring the importance of Pakistan at the behest of India will automatically make the region unstable including the already troubled Afghanistan. The US ties with Pakistan is important not only for the prevalence of peace in Afghanistan but also to keep the “broader” regional peace intact. And a stable and peaceful South Asia is in the larger interest of the US, as observers in Nepal understand.

The US to some extent will rely on Pakistan to keep the Pakistani neighborhood politically stable. Dr. Moeed says that his country was ready to support the US in its peace initiatives.

If Pakistan is stable and peaceful, it can assist the US in its mission to herald peace not only in South Asia but also in Central Asia, the Gulf and the Middle East. Pakistan can, for example, negotiate friendship with Iran-the bete noir of the US for some political reasons.

If the US and Iran come to terms then the perceived Iranian threat in the Gulf, the friends of the US, will vanish. If Iran comes to terms with the US then North Korea will be the only “problem” for the US to mend direct confrontation.

Notably, Biden will do well if he begins right from the broken links with the Rocketman (Baby Kim) and assures him of protection and confidence from the US side. North Korean Rocketman may offer to reciprocate then. Dialogue and dialogue only could bring in North Koreans once again to the table.

A relaxed China may also come to help President Biden in his move to develop workable ties with the North Korean regime.

Back to Nepal, Joe Biden’s tenure in the White House will not be so much “comfortable” to the thug communists of Nepal. Increasing ties with Beijing over these years may not be that easily digested by the US administration under Biden who is out and out a democrat.

In the recent days, as per a report, in a Geneva meet the US officials point-blank asked some disturbing questions to Nepali officials on Nepal’s likely “extradition treaty” with the Chinese regime. The US wanted to know the details of the Treaty with China. Moreover, the US officials also learnt to have asked some questions which were of interest and curiosity to the US on matters of Tibetan refugees staying in Nepal.

It appears that the US will not settle for less with charlatan communist Nepal. Nepali Communist are richer than the Swiss bank. That’s all.

@people's review and NPU

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