China's Probing for Stability at APEC
Does the US care?
Xi Jinping is visiting San Francisco to meet with Biden at the APEC Summit. Initially, reports stressed that Xi’s visit was going to be “tense,” and some pondered whether he would actually feel safe enough to make the trip.
But Bloomberg is now reporting that Biden and Xi have struck an agreement to crackdown on fentanyl (much of which originates from China). In turn, the US will remove sanctions against China’s Institution of Forensic Science (for its association with human rights abuses in Xinjiang).
And that’s not all. A few days ago it was already announced that Biden and Xi would agree to a mutual ban on artificial intelligence in nuclear warheads and advanced conventional weapons like drones, keeping a “human in the loop” of military judgment and reducing the risks of escalation and nuclear first-use pressures.
When you add this A.I. agreement with the fentanyl quid pro quo and some other minor gestures from China, you start to see a totality:
It looks like China is probing for near-term stability in the strategic relationship. The problem is I’m not sure the US is.
The Biden administration has explicitly said it wants a stable relationship, but it wants one on its terms. Primacist terms. And it looks like the lesser of the two great powers is doing more than we are to stabilize things in this moment.
But if China is interested in dampening confrontation, even if it’s for the sake of its economy, that’s an opening for the US to bridle an overmilitarized, oversecuritized confrontation that has gotten out of control.
Let me explain.