President Joe Biden and Chinese President Xi Jinping will hold a virtual summit on Monday evening amid rising tensions between the countries.
Allen Carlson is an associate professor of government and an expert on U.S.-China relations. He says a flurry of diplomatic pleasantries is unlikely to extend to the three most contentious and intractable issues between the U.S. and China.
“Many hope the virtual summit will put the two countries on better terms. Given the emphasis both leaders have placed on this event, it is certain to produce a flurry of diplomatic pleasantries, and some expanded cooperative initiatives – particularly on climate change. However, such détente is unlikely to extend to the three most contentious and intractable issues between the U.S. and China.
“First, on COVID-19, neither leader sees eye-to-eye on the origins of the virus, or the appropriate public health response to the pandemic.
“Second, on trade, neither Biden nor Xi are inclined to end the fractious trade war begun by former President Donald Trump.
“Finally, concerning Taiwan, neither seems likely, or able, to back down from their divergent views about the island’s future. Biden must continue to assure Taiwan of America’s support for status quo across the Taiwan Straits (which amounts to a form of de facto independence for the island), while Xi is intent on hastening, what from his view is, its return to China.
“Tensions on these three issues may be dialed down during the meeting, but it seems highly improbable (even impossible) for them to be resolved. So, while the two leaders will smile at each other on their version of the Zoom call we have all gotten so used to doing over the last two years, they will likely still be mostly frowning at each other when the audio and video is muted.”