The Xi-Biden summit

Image: Emre Can Acer


This latest Xi-Biden Summit makes it more relevant than ever due to the incipient thawing of tensions between their countries

Presidents Xi Jinping and Joe Biden met for the first time in a year, at the Asia-Pacific Economic Conference (APEC), in San Francisco. The meeting took place at a time when the U.S. pull away gradually of the Ukrainian conflict and in the midst of the unexpected war between Israel and Hamas, which abruptly diverted attention from all other Eurasian fronts. This context led to related questions about the future of its grand strategy, namely whether it would be the case of “(Re)orient towards Asia” as planned or consider something else.

American stocks have been depleted by more than 20 months of armed aid to Ukraine, but are now being stretched to breaking point by its security commitments to Israel. The United States cannot therefore afford to become indirectly involved in more major conflicts abroad, but this is precisely what has been provoked against China, particularly by its support for Philippine maritime claims and Taiwanese separatism. Everything could quickly spiral out of control if this policy doesn't change quickly.

Therein lies the wisdom of agreeing with the resumption of military communication with China, after it confirmed the dismissal of former defense minister Li Shangfu weeks earlier, following his prolonged disappearance. Regardless of what may be behind this second measure, its relevance for the Xi-Biden Summit was that it facilitated the aforementioned resumption of military communication. This, in turn, will help reduce the likelihood that their New Cold War rivalry will lead to a major conflict through miscalculation.

It would be premature to conclude that their previous implicit talks about a “new to relax”, or a series of mutual commitments across multiple domains aimed at achieving a “new normal” in their ties, are once again on the right track. Many things happened since the balloon incident in February derailed this grand strategic trajectory, but a moderate series of mutual compromises is, in fact, possible. However, instead of resolving their rivalry, they would only serve to better manage them.

This outcome would be positive for global stability, but it also poses some challenges for other important actors interested in the global systemic transition, especially India and Russia. These two will never say it directly, but they are concerned about the return and subsequent retraction of the brief bi-multipolar period in which Sino-American interaction disproportionately shaped the world. This period roughly occurred between the late 2010s and the start of Russia's special operation and was not ideal for either.

To be clear, the US remains one of the most important strategic partners of India anywhere in the world, while Russia is in a Agreement not official with China, but each of their counterparts considers managing their New Cold War rivalry more important than their ties with India and Russia, respectively. Therefore, it is not excluded that the incipient thaw in Sino-American tensions could lead to unforeseen challenges for India and Russia, without intention or purpose.

For example, the United States could turn a blind eye to some Chinese actions in the Himalayas – Ladakh, Bhutan and/or Arunachal Pradesh – that India considers threats to national security, if it concludes that this would redirect its attention to maritime disputes, thus avoiding a possible Sino-American war. Similarly, China could encourage more of its companies to comply with US anti-Russian sanctions if it concludes that this could help advance eventual Sino-US talks aimed at resolving their trade war.

Any of these scenarios could occur unintentionally due to policymakers' perceptions of their country's objective national interests, or deliberately if their counterparts discreetly request such compensation. The purpose of drawing attention to this is not to raise alarm about the future of Indo-American or Sino-Russian ties, but simply to draw attention to the new momentum in expanding Indo-Russian ties. This fact is in line with the efforts of Valdai Club expert Andrey Sushentsov to develop a new “big idea” for your ties.

The aforementioned analysis proposes that the concept of tri-multipolarity, which is described in detail there, and which was referred to earlier in the present article in relation to global systemic transition, could satisfy this great strategic need. It frames said transition in a way that recognizes the importance of the interaction of these four Great Powers for the formation of the future world order. This latest Xi-Biden Summit makes it more relevant than ever, due to the incipient thawing of tensions between their countries.

As has been written previously, the outcome of the meeting is positive for global stability, although it also entails unforeseen challenges for India and Russia, not to mention small and medium-sized states with less sovereignty than these two. China and the US have the right to pursue their objective national interests as policymakers understand them, the same goes for India, Russia and everyone else. Ideally, it will be possible to achieve a pragmatic balance between these interests, although this is not guaranteed.

*Andrew Korybko holds a master's degree in International Relations from the Moscow State Institute of International Relations. Book author Hybrid Wars: From Color Revolutions to Coups (popular expression). []

Translation: Fernando Lima das Neves.

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