The US-China relationship is about to take yet another turn for the worse and a phone call between US President Joe Biden and Chinese leader Xi Jinping is not expected to improve ties between the two countries.
Complicating things further, Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi is planning a trip to Taiwan, a major sticking point for China. Beijing claims Taiwan as part of its territory and bristles at any suggestion Taiwan is a separate entity. Chinese officials have accused Pelosi and the US of "playing with fire." Asked by reporters about its potential reaction, Chinese officials appeared to suggest it could involve either a diplomatic or a military response.
If Pelosi does indeed make the trip to Taiwan at the head of a bipartisan congressional delegation, her visit will be seen as direct support of the island nation of 23 million - and a middle finger to China. White house officials have expressed their concern for Pelosi's safety as well as of Beijing's response. The Chinese Communist Party is expected to meet in a few months and US intelligence believes Xi will not want to appear weak before that meeting by giving in to Pelosi. Consequently, he may want to take harsh action if she does go through with the trip.
The call between Biden and Xi is expected to cover sensitive topics such as Taiwan, trade, economic competition, and Russia's invasion of Ukraine. In addition, Biden may also bring up the issue of China's provocations in the South China Sea during the phone call, though it was unclear from White House press statements whether he would or not. Those provocations are viewed by the US and other Western countries as a direct threat to Taiwan and Japan and a direct violation of maritime laws. The four previous calls Biden held with Xi made little headway and it is not expected that this call will make any more progress on the main issues.
White House National Security Spokesperson John Kirby said that while the administration has debated whether to lift some of the tariffs currently placed on Chinese goods as one way to help boost the US economy, no decision is expected to be made ahead of the phone call.
Given the current tensions between the two countries over human rights violations against Muslim Uyghurs in China, ties with Russia and Iran as well as economic trade and competition issues, it appears highly unlikely the two leaders will be successful in transcending their differences.
Given China's history of aggression in its own region as well as in dealing with Western countries, especially the United States, Biden and his team would be well-advised to push back against any outrageous Chinese demands or provocations.
The world order is currently undergoing a drastic change and the US would be wise to maintain its position as leader of the free world and not allow China or Russia to bully it into second place. Were China or Russia to gain more power, it would set in motion a devastating process that would see the entire democratic western world including North America and Western Europe lose power and prestige to the two main dictatorships.
That notion alone should spring into action every leader and diplomat who holds dear western values and the power that goes along with it. Western diplomatic, economic and military strength are the three main factors that can ensure China and Russia do not take over the world.
In his conversation with Xi, Biden must remain resolute and firm. The future of the western democratic world depends on it.