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Changing the Face of Sino-American Relations

The US will never accept China’s violations of human rights and trade abuses in exchange for climate cooperation. But to ensure that this approach does not forestall much-needed cooperation, a broad dialogue, led by a different set of faces and fortified by deeper personal relationships, is essential.

WASHINGTON, DC – The Sino-American relationship is at its lowest point in decades. Following the recent bilateral summit in Alaska – the first high-level talks since President Joe Biden took office – it is far from clear whether the new US administration understands what it will take to revive it.

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken has said that, while America’s relationship with China has some “adversarial” aspects, it also has “cooperative ones.” At the Alaska summit, however, there was little sign of the latter, with Blinken and National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan publicly trading barbs with Chinese officials.

Biden said he was proud of Blinken for sitting through an anti-American tirade, but acknowledged that it was not a great start to his administration’s relationship with China. The hope now, it seems, is that John Kerry, US Special Presidential Envoy for Climate, will have more luck at the upcoming talks with his Chinese counterpart in an area where both sides have expressed a willingness to cooperate.