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A little bit détente

For China and the US, the Biden - Xi Jinping Bali talks implied no improvements but no deteriorations in their bilateral relationship, and not any deterioration at this moment is as significant as any possible improvement.

Ahead of this year's annual G20 summit in Indonesia's Bali, China's and US presidents Xi Jinping and Joe Biden held their first in-person talks since Joe Biden became US president while the China-US relations are at their lowest in decades and full of disagreements over many issues. They rank from Taiwan to Hongkong, from Chinese trade practices to US restrictions on Chinese technology, from the South China Sea to the war in Ukraine.

 China's President Xi Jinping and US President Joe Biden. Photo: AFP/VNA

Pointing outward, both China's Xi and US's Biden seemed to deliberately show goodwill and pragmatism, flexibility, and engagement too, according to Xi Jinping's words, "steer the bilateral relationship in the right direction". But in reality, all existing and pressing problems in the relations between China and the US remain resolved like before their Bali talks. Only a little bit of détente has been gained, and the temperature in this bilateral relationship has been lowered when the two talked tough but frank to and with each other when they invoked the need and possibility to prevent "a new Cold War" between the US and China and showed their willingness to get the US-China relationship back on track.

As a result, it was not much for the relationship between the US and China and far from being enough to evoke any substantial improvements to this relationship.

But it has still had immensely positive impacts on the two countries and the world. For the world, it brought a little bit of relief and assurance that China and the US will try to keep their bilateral ties under their control and supervision. Their disputes remain sensitive, complicated, and hard to overcome. But this bilateral relationship won't have big crashes, disruptions, or decoupling.

For China and the US, the Biden - Xi Jinping Bali talks implied no improvements but no deteriorations in their bilateral relationship, and not any deterioration at this moment is as significant as any possible improvement. Despite the fact the nature and intensity of their rivalry remain unchanged after the Bali China-US talks, the China-US ties are entering a new time: China is trying to decrease tensions with the US to have stable and predictable relations with the US to become better prepared for the strategic competition with the US in the future, and the US tries to seek formal détente with China to divide China from Russia and to concentrate and prioritize on Russia. The US is aware of the fact that if Russia won the war in Ukraine, the US would then have to deal with a much stronger China. A little bit of détente in Bali enabled China and the US to play the so-called Times-Card with each other.

Disclaimer: The views expressed by Ambassador Tran Duc Mau are his own and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of The Hanoi Times.


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