US-China trade relations have moved from coupling to decoupling. Image: iStock

Beijing will not cling to false hopes that a three-hour talk between the top leaders of the United States and China can solve all the problems between the two powers, according to some Chinese researchers.

After a face-to-face meeting between US President Joe Biden and Chinese President Xi Jinping on Monday, the Chinese government will closely monitor what the US actually does regarding trade and technology, the commentators said.

Chinese state media said the Xi-Biden meeting represented a good starting point for China and the US to resume pragmatic cooperation.

But they stressed that Biden should not “say one thing and do another” after he proclaimed that the US had no intention to decouple from China or suppress China’s economic growth.

Since January 2021 when Biden took office as the US president, he has had had phone and video calls with Xi five times. Initially, Chinese state media expressed high hopes that the talks would help improve Sino-US bilateral relations following the departure of the “hawkish” Trump administration.

However, tensions between the two countries kept growing as the US sanctioned Chinese firms and imposed chip export bans on China.

After Biden and Xi held a call on July 28 this year, US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi visited Taiwan and met Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen in a two-day trip that ended August 3. The People’s Liberation Army retaliated by starting a three-day military exercise near Taiwan island.

US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (L) waving beside Taiwan’s President Tsai Ing-wen. Photo: Handout

On Monday afternoon on the sidelines of the G20 summit in Bali, Xi and Biden finally had their first handshake since the early 2020 beginning of the global pandemic.

During the meeting, Biden told Xi that the US and China had to work together to address transnational challenges – such as climate change, global macroeconomic stability including debt relief, health security and global food security. 

He said the US objected to coercive and increasingly aggressive actions by the PRC toward Taiwan, which he said undermine peace and stability across the Taiwan Strait and in the broader region and jeopardize global prosperity.

He added that the US would continue to compete vigorously with China, including by investing in sources of strength domestically and aligning efforts with allies and partners around the world.

He also raised concerns about the PRC’s practices in Xinjiang, Tibet, and Hong Kong, and human rights more broadly.

Xi told Biden that the Taiwan matter was the most important red line that the US should not cross. He said Pelosi’s Taiwan visit had hurt Sino-US relations and threatened stability in the Taiwan Strait.

He said another red line was that the US should not try to change the leadership of the Chinese Communist Party and China’s socialist system. He said China’s democracy had its own characteristics and should not be labeled as authoritarian.

He said the US and China should achieve mutual benefit in bilateral trade, instead of having any trade and technology war or decoupling. He said China would continue to push forward its economic reform and opening.

After the meeting, Biden told the media that he believed there were no imminent plans for China invading Taiwan. He also said both the US and China opposed the use or threat of use of nuclear weapons in Ukraine.

China agreed to resume, after the Xi-Biden meeting, climate cooperation with the US that had been discontinued after Pelosi’s Taiwan visit .

Su Xiaohui, deputy director and associate research fellow of the Department for American Studies, China Institute of International Studies, said the latest Xi-Biden talk was important as it was held after the successful closure of the CCP’s 20th National Congress last month and the United States’ midterm elections, in which the Democratic Party drew stronger-than-expected support from voters.

Su said the fact that the two leaders could sit down and talk had a positive meaning for Sino-US relations, which had become very complicated after the US side made some wrong moves.

“The Chinese side has no illusion and would not hope that one meeting could solve all the problems,” Su said. “If the US is willing to walk along with China, Beijing will welcome it. But if the US keeps suppressing China, We are ready to impose countermeasures to protect our national interest.”

People’s Bank of China’s governor Yi Gang and US Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen also met in Bali to discuss the global economic situation.

Yellen said that she hoped the US would engage in more intensive conversations with China about the Chinese economy, global macroeconomic conditions and public health policies both in the US and China, media reported.

Xue Xiaorong, an associate professor at Fudan University, said people should not be too serious about Yellen’s assurance that the US would not decouple from China, as it could be all empty talk.

Xue said Yellen’s call to stabilize Sino-US relations was not meaningful if US Trade Representative Katherine Tai and Biden kept going the opposite way.

He said if the US did not stop suppressing China, it would be extremely difficult for the relations between the two sides to be stabilised.

Tai, who was also in Bali on Monday, told the media that the Xi-Biden meeting had sent a powerful signal to the rest of the world that China and the US could manage a “tremendously complex relationship.”

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