By Hon. James P. Moore, Jr.
Much to the dismay of the Chinese Government, the recent meetings between the senior foreign policy leaders of the United States and China did not lead to a reset in relations. The Chinese hierarchy believed that after the administration of President Trump the slate could somehow be wiped clean, and both countries could begin as though the past had not been prologue. While the American side wanted to lay out its grievances and take stock of their counterparts, the Chinese delegation believed that a new dawn had arrived and that the meeting would be a springboard to a new strategic, working relationship. That prospect was never in the cards for several reasons.
First, there was serious naivete on the part of the Chinese officials. President Biden had not come to the job devoid of in-depth knowledge on the evolution of the People’s Republic. After all, he came to the U.S. Senate in 1973 when Mao tse Tung was China’s Paramount Leader followed by a string of formidable leaders such as Zhou Enlai and Deng Xiaoping. The President’s having served on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and then becoming its chair only led to an even greater understanding of the country’s evolution. The former Senator and Vice President was not starting from scratch, and the presence of President Xi Jinping was not some unknown phenomenon. Indeed no President has ever been sworn into office who has had more in-depth knowledge about China than President Biden.
Second, the Coronavirus pandemic accelerated the pace of more fully understanding the weakness of the United States when it comes to breaks in the supply chain. From technological production to the manufacturing of simple face masks, the country realized that it was far too dependent on China and others for its own health and security. Reality had hit. Economic dependency was even more widespread and cannot stand without a proactive response.
Third, The U.S. Government over several years has become far more aware of China’s advancement made possible in part by “lifting” American intellectual property, technology transfer, past manipulation of currency, and more. Furthermore, its top-down approach to executing an aggressive industrial policy has placed the United States at a serious disadvantage. Two Congressionally chartered, nonpartisan commissions, one on Artificial Intelligence and one on Cybersecurity, recently have shared the one conclusive concern they have in common — China is a serious problem to the economic future and security of the United States.
While there is little in common between the Republican and Democratic parties these days, and this political division will be around for some time to come, there has been one unifying clarion call. The United States needs to confront the threat of “the China way” before it is too late. During the Regan Administration I hosted one of the first Chinese trade delegations to visit the United States. Our country at that time held a $5 million surplus in a total two-way trade of $10 billion. For a decade now, China has enjoyed a minimum of a $300 billion surplus each year.
The high-level U.S.- Chinese meeting held in Anchorage was an important development, not for the misguided belief that both sides could start afresh, but that they were meeting in the first place. Understanding today’s serious realities by the world’s two most formidable forces is critical to global progress sand a good start for the new Administration. The meetings have preceded discussions between John Kerry and his counterpart Xie Zhenhua on the subject of climate change during an international conference in China at this moment. The stakes for both sides are formidable and must be addressed cooperatively, a promising sign.
Nonetheless, trade, geopolitical dynamics, and human rights will continue to be part of the bilateral dialogue for years to come. Let’s hope this was the message taken away from Alaska.
Hon. James P. Moore, Jr.- Founder and CEO of the Washington Institute
James P. Moore, Jr. is the founder and CEO of the Washington Institute for Business, Government, and Society. Based in Washington, D.C. with a presence in Paris, Oxford, and Singapore, the Institute is unique among nonprofit organizations in that it is dedicated to addressing challenging issues facing the intersection of business, government, and society.
Earlier in his career, Moore served as U.S. Assistant Secretary of Commerce for Trade Development and several other senior level positions, negotiating more than a dozen trade agreements on behalf of the United States. He also was host to one of the first ever Chinese trade agreements to visit the United States in 1984. He is a regular commentator on U.S. China relations on the China Global Television Network (CGTN) as well as several major U.S. networks.