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As Tensions Between the U.S. And China Rise, China Will Keep Using Aggressive Diplomacy


HONG KONG — During the first two years of Xi Jinping’s presidency, China and the U.S. became more competitive and tense. Relations between the two countries look like they are going to get worse as he starts his third term and has more control over his party.

“Attempts from the outside to control and limit China could get worse at any time,” he said last week at the start of the twice-decade congress of the Communist Party of China, which is in power.

Xi said that China should be ready to handle strong winds, rough seas, and even dangerous storms, but he didn’t mention Washington by name.

A few days after leaving Congress, he came back with a new team of leaders that seems to leave out anyone who might question his strict policies.

The Politburo Standing Committee, China’s top decision-making body, is made up of Xi and six of his closest allies, all of whom are men.

This “confirms what most China watchers have long suspected: Collective leadership in China, which has been on life support for a long time, is now officially dead,” said Craig Singleton, a senior fellow at the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies in Washington.

“Xi has cut the once-powerful Standing Committee down to just one member: himself.” At the same time, he said that Foreign Minister Wang Yi’s and Chinese Ambassador Qin Gang’s promotions were a tacit approval of their aggressive “wolf warrior” diplomacy.

As Tensions Between the U.s. And China Rise, China Will Keep Using Aggressive Diplomacy

At the same time, Liu He and Yang Jiechi, two important contacts for US trade and foreign policy officials, were kicked out of the party’s new 205-member Central Committee because they had reached the traditional retirement age of 68.

“Their firing, along with the fact that there aren’t many other Chinese officials with a lot of US experience,” Singleton wrote in an email, “will almost certainly make the Biden administration’s already hard job of setting so-called guardrails in Washington’s strategic rivalry with Beijing even harder.”

Relations with China have been getting worse for at least a decade before the latest changes. Jia Qingguo, the former dean of Peking University’s School of International Studies in Beijing, says that even though the US and China are not at war, they are getting closer.

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In an interview with The Carter Center in Atlanta that came out this week, he said, “Of course, China hopes that the Sino-U.S. relationship will be fairly stable and, if possible, get better.”

He says that the problem is that many powerful politicians and policymakers in the US don’t see it that way. Jia says that in the short term, US policy toward China could stay tough, especially if the Republicans win more seats in the House of Representatives in elections next month.

He pointed to the fact that members of Congress had gone to Taiwan, which is a self-governing democracy that Beijing claims as its territory, and that controls on advanced semiconductor chip sales to China had just been tightened.

As Tensions Between the U.s. And China Rise, China Will Keep Using Aggressive Diplomacy

Jia said, “If the US does these things, China will respond, especially when it comes to Taiwan.”

China saw House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s controversial trip to the island in August as a “hollowing out” of the “One China” principle, which has been the basis of US policy toward Taiwan for decades.

Since then, “reunification” with the island has been Xi’s top priority, even though most people agree that China isn’t likely to use force against Taiwan any time soon.

Ian Johnson, a senior fellow for China studies at the Council on Foreign Relations, said, “There will be even less tolerance for countries that disagree with [China’s] view of Taiwan.”

Taiwan’s foreign minister said on Wednesday that China was likely to increase diplomatic pressure on the island, including by trying to get the 14 remaining countries to recognize Taipei instead of Beijing.

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