In 2018, the President of United States (US) of the time Donald Trump started a trade war against China by taking protective trade measures. Since this date, the relations between China and the US in particular and the West in general have become a struggle, and various conflicts have arisen. For example, in 2018, Huawei Vice Chairman Meng Wanzhou was arrested at the request of American officials, and China responded by detaining two Canadian citizens on espionage charges.
In the following period, some tensions have been experienced in many areas, especially over the political fault lines in the Pacific Region, where China is geographically located. For instance, tensions have increased further due to the security-based dispute between Australia and China over the Solomon Islands.
While the West continues to have strained relations with China; it found itself faced with a much bigger problem. Because on February 24, 2022, Russia made a military intervention against Ukraine. On the other hand, while many Western countries implemented sanctions targeting the Moscow administration; the Kremlin also used energy as a trump card and reduced the gas supply. This situation has brought about the energy crisis. For this reason, European states have turned to various searches to solve the energy problem.
On the one hand, while Russia continues the war in Ukraine; on the other hand, the military activities of North Korea by the Pyongyang administration led to an escalation of tension in the Korean Peninsula. In this environment, the relations of both Russia and North Korea with China accelerated the marginalization of Beijing in the eyes of the West. Indeed, China’s encounter with such a situation was not only due to the actions of Moscow and Pyongyang. The American experts argue that China will increase the pressure on Taiwan and may resort to the use of force within two years. This creates serious uneasiness in the West.
In addition to all these, it is also known that there are allegations that China is engaged in espionage activities in various fields and that it harms democracies by interfering in elections in some countries. For example, Prime Minister of Canada Justin Trudeau was informed by the intelligence agency that China interfered in the 2019 elections in Canada. As well as it is alleged that China recruited former fighter pilots of Western nationality to train the Chinese People’s Liberation Army.
On the other hand, the contacts made by Jinping show that there are signs of rapprochement in China-Western relations. As a matter of fact, on November 14, 2022, President of China Xi Jinping and the President of the US Joe Biden held a meeting that lasted for three hours. During the meeting, Biden stated that the US is not seeking a “new Cold War” with China and is committed to the “One China Policy.” The Washington administration’s commitment to the “One China Policy” and Biden’s statements that he does not want conflict with China created a positive atmosphere between the parties.
Otherwise, Jinping stated that positive statements should be supported with concrete steps and emphasized that Biden should support her rhetoric with concrete actions, referring to the Taiwan Policy Law that the US Senate is working on.
During the meeting traffic during the G20 Summit, a meeting was also held between the leaders of Australia and China. In this context, Jinping and Prime Minister of Australia Anthony Albanese came together. Albanese described the meeting as warm and constructive; Jinping expressed that China cares about relations with Australia. In addition, Arthur Sinodinos, Canberra’s Ambassador to the US, described the meeting as a concrete step towards the improvement of bilateral relations and stated that Australia wanted to reduce the tension in relations with China. Besides, the Ambassador also stated that there will be no change in alliance understandings and defence policies, especially in AUKUS. Additionally, Defence Minister of Australia Richard Marles underlined that the commitment to improve relations with China does not mean that Australia will not focus on defence policies.
Another noteworthy meeting was held at the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) Summit between Jinping and Prime Minister of Japan Fumiyo Kishida. During the meeting held on November 17, 2022, Kishida and Xi revealed their will to develop bilateral relations. Addressing the latest situation of the war in Ukraine, the leaders confirmed that they are against the use of nuclear weapons. Moreover, Kishida also stated that although the Sino-Japanese relations contain many difficulties, they have a serious potential for cooperation.
As a result, China-Western relations, which have been going through hard times for a long time, show signs of softening on the occasion of international summits. In this context, it can be said that Jinping’s meetings with both the US President and the leaders of the countries that are partners of the US in the region are of great importance. However, especially the statements from the Australian authorities reveal that there has not been a process that has fully evolved into cooperation in the context of security and defence policies. Therefore, it is possible to argue that the driving force in China-Western relations is the economy.
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