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Rebuilding the Infrastructure of Sino-American Relations

Summary:
No amount of summitry will steer US-China relations back on track without some fundamental agreement between the two countries. But, given the salience of their domestic politics, confrontation is unlikely to give way to a more cooperative approach anytime soon. BEIJING – US President Joe Biden has been basking in the glow of his .2 trillion bipartisan infrastructure bill, which he signed into law on November 15. But Biden’s virtual summit with Chinese President Xi Jinping on the same day underlined the need for both leaders to invest some of their political capital in rebuilding the infrastructure which supports their countries’ increasingly brittle bilateral relationship. A Casablanca for

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No amount of summitry will steer US-China relations back on track without some fundamental agreement between the two countries. But, given the salience of their domestic politics, confrontation is unlikely to give way to a more cooperative approach anytime soon.

BEIJING – US President Joe Biden has been basking in the glow of his $1.2 trillion bipartisan infrastructure bill, which he signed into law on November 15. But Biden’s virtual summit with Chinese President Xi Jinping on the same day underlined the need for both leaders to invest some of their political capital in rebuilding the infrastructure which supports their countries’ increasingly brittle bilateral relationship.

During their meeting, both presidents expressed a desire to avoid a new cold war. But no amount of summitry will steer US-China relations back on track without some fundamental agreement between the two countries.

Fortunately, unlike former President Donald Trump’s administration, Biden does appear to want to restore normality to the relationship. As US National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan said after the meeting, “intense competition” between the two countries “requires intense diplomacy.”

Likewise, China is exploring new approaches vis-à-vis the United States. True, top Chinese diplomats are far more assertive nowadays toward their US counterparts than they had been in the past, and China’s military buildup continues apace. But as the summit began, Xi smiled when greeting Biden, calling him an “old friend.” Given the unyielding tone of previous US meetings with senior Chinese leaders during Biden’s presidency, this was a clear indication that Xi wants to change the tenor of the relationship.

Bonhomie aside, China and the US have actually made progress of late, particularly with a joint...

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