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I know I’m not the only one looking for signs of a dramatic improvement in the US-China diplomatic relationship in the early days of President Biden, and with an experienced new team in the White House. The previous administration pushed against China to an extent that had never been imagined before and, whilst acknowledging that Trump’s style and rhetoric was not particularly helpful or presidential, it seems unlikely that the US will immediately back down on some of the trade-related measures of the Trump administration, whether they agree with them or not. Why would you give away future bargaining chips?

US rivalry with China will now take the form of “extreme competition”, according to President Biden, which will offer some relief from the “extreme confrontation” displayed by Secretary Pompeo in recent times. By all accounts, Biden has spent a lot of quality time with President Xi during the Obama years and so there’s good reasons to be optimistic about the relationship in the future. In the meantime, don’t forget that both leaders have important and pressing domestic agendas to deal with (vaccinations, Covid outbreaks, economic recovery, climate change etc.) and this will undoubtedly be the priority for them in the short term.

One thing is very clear. America and China are now in a strategic contest for global leadership (economic, military, trade, technology etc.) and, to remain in power, both leaders will be reluctant to take a backward step for fear of being seen as weak or vulnerable by their own people. Expect to see some posturing, messaging and positioning in the weeks ahead, rather than any major moves by either side.

My message to the rest of the world?: “It’s not your fight. STAY OUT OF IT!”

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