Washington and Beijing have been trapped in a spiral of anger and suspicion for several years, but the situation has deteriorated rapidly since the beginning of the Covid-19 pandemic, amid finger-pointing over the origins of the virus. Meetings between the two sides are few and far between — and when they occur, such as in Alaska in March, they are bitter and confrontational. The US is without an ambassador in Beijing. There have been no moves to reopen the recently shuttered United States consulate in Chengdu or the Chinese consulate in Houston. And the appointment of a new Chinese ambassador to Washington, while a positive step, is unlikely to deescalate tensions in the short term.
There's certainly no small amount of antagonism between the two sides at present. Experts point to rising brinksmanship over Taiwan and the expanding standoff in the South China Sea as possible military flashpoints with unpredictable consequences for both sides.