lørdag 9. mars 2024

Patricia M. Kim, Brookings: The US-China relationship in 2024 is stabilized but precarious

Neither Washington nor Beijing has high hopes for the bilateral relationship in 2024. As Ambassador Nicholas Burns put it at a Brookings event last month, he is “not optimistic” but “realistic” about the U.S.-China relationship. His comments aptly reflect the sentiment in both capitals.

The upside is that both sides share low expectations — it’s often when expectations are mismatched that there’s turbulence. They are clear-eyed about their differences. Neither Biden nor Xi seeks to trigger a larger conflict, and both leaders have endorsed using working-level exchanges to manage friction.

The downside is that there is little incentive for either side to pursue a more proactive agenda. Such an approach would admittedly be riskier but could give leaders more to point to when skeptics question the utility of maintaining stable ties. As Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen remarked in her speech on the U.S.-China economic relationship last month, “continuing to stabilize our relationship to prevent escalation” is incredibly important, but it “won’t make news.” The pressure will be higher on Biden as the leader of a democracy, who faces political attacks accusing him of pursuing “zombie engagement” and “appeasing” Beijing.