roach126_FREDERIC J. BROWNPOOLAFP via Getty Images_us china meeting alaska Frederic J. Brown/Pool/AFP via Getty Images

Boxed In On China

Trapped in a groundswell of anti-China sentiment, US President Joe Biden’s team appears to be staying the course set by the previous administration. A better way would be for both sides to go back to basics – the economics and trade issues that have long anchored the US-China relationship.

NEW HAVEN – It wasn’t just the weather that was cold when senior US and Chinese officials convened recently in Anchorage, Alaska to try to reset their countries’ relations after four years of mounting tension. Sadly, the meeting was more reminiscent of the Cold War era than of a fresh start. That needs to change quickly – before it is too late.

Trapped in the politics of America’s bipartisan groundswell of anti-China sentiment, President Joe Biden’s team appears to be staying the course set by the previous administration, even upping the ante on the trade and technology conflict by raising human rights and geopolitical concerns, which Biden’s predecessor ignored. And China, trapped in a mindset born of a “century of humiliation,” compounded the problem with its assertive and defensive response. In full view of the media, the opening exchange was laced with charges and counter charges, with no discernible path for de-escalation.

A better way would be for both sides to go back to basics – the economics and trade issues that have long anchored the US-China relationship. That doesn’t mean dismissing other tough issues. It means reestablishing common ground and mutual trust before expanding the agenda. This is where the Biden administration needs to rethink its combative approach. On economics and trade, it has been boxed in by the “phase one” trade deal negotiated by the “former guys,” as Biden refers to the previous administration. And that is where there is greatest leverage for change.

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