There were smiles and photo ops aplenty as Presidents Joe Biden and Xi Jinping met recently in a San Francisco suburb for a much-anticipated summit.
Considering that the meeting came after a lengthy lean patch between the world’s two top economies, the outcomes have been described as generally positive, even though Mr Biden labelled his Chinese counterpart a dictator not too long after both had met, perhaps another one of the bizarre faux pas the US leader is prone to.
Mr Xi assured his host that the planet was “big enough” for both countries, while Mr Biden said that understanding each other was “paramount”. The restoration of military communication channels between Washington and Beijing is also being seen as a step towards de-escalating tensions.
Constructive as the meeting was, there should be no illusions that the summit foretells a golden age for Sino-American ties.
The Pentagon, in its National Defence Strategy last year, termed China America’s most “consequential strategic competitor”.
There is little to suggest that this characterisation has changed. What the summit did succeed in doing was to keep channels of communication open between two global powers in an unstable world.
Yet unless both capitals manage the relationship — and their Great Power competition — responsibly, there are chances of a bruising collision, particularly over the Taiwan issue.
While the US says it still adheres to the One China policy, many within the American political establishment insist on prodding Taipei towards independence.
For Beijing, this is the foremost of the “red lines” Mr Xi mentioned at the summit. In fact, along with the Ukraine war and the Middle East situation, experts feel that unless managed cautiously, the Taiwan issue could become the source of an open US-China conflict.
The US should stick to the One China policy and stop provoking Beijing, while China must not take the bait, and resolve the Taiwan question peacefully.
Yet if and when these geopolitical ‘elephants’ fight, nations caught in the middle, such as Pakistan, must avoid the fallout.
It is easy to advocate for neutrality, but in case a Sino-American conflict breaks out, countries will have to make hard choices.
That is why the state needs to plan for all geopolitical expediencies, to ensure that Pakistan’s interests are protected, and the country survives the shockwaves of foreign conflict.
Asia News Network