Biden wasted Blinken’s effort in China
An-Nahar, Lebanon, June 20
US Secretary of State Anthony Blinken’s visit to Beijing appears to have broken through the thick layer of ice that had developed between the two largest economic powers in the world, bringing them back to the same negotiation table.
While a breakthrough in their relationship may still be premature, Blinken received a warm reception from his Chinese counterparts. During his visit, Blinken met with Chinese President Xi Jinping; the head of diplomacy in the Communist Party, Wang Yi; and Foreign Minister Qin Gang. It appears, however, that no major changes occurred in the Chinese and American discourse, indicating that controversial issues remain on the table.
Thus, further rounds of diplomacy and dialogue between the two countries are necessary.
China and the US maintain an intense rivalry, extending from trade to territorial disputes. Notably, the Taiwan and South China Sea questions remain hotly contested. Beijing accuses the US of aiming to “contain” China and block its rise to economic and political parity. In response, the US has bolstered partnerships and trade blocs in the Asia-Pacific, alongside strengthening military ties with major powers, such as the Philippines, as well as with smaller states including Micronesia, Papua New Guinea, and the Solomon Islands. Washington has upped its military aid to Taiwan and bolstered US forces in the region, sending a stark message to Beijing about the implications of attempting to annex the island by force.
Further, the 2018 National Security Strategy of the US prioritized China as the top challenge facing the US in the years to come – superseding even Russia. US-Chinese relations deteriorated under the presidency of Donald Trump. Trump set tariffs on Chinese imports and sanctioned Chinese officials and companies for Beijing’s treatment of the Uighur Muslim minority in eastern Xinjiang. Joe Biden has not reversed Trump’s policies but rather increased them, maintaining the custom tariffs.
The issue of US accusations regarding Cuban espionage bases and the eavesdropping on the US by China is now central to the two countries’ relationship. The visit of former US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi to Taiwan last August sparked further tensions in these relations.
In early January, a Chinese reconnaissance blimp entered US airspace, leading Washington to accuse Beijing of espionage. Complications to the bilateral relationship were further exacerbated when Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen visited the US in April and was received by US House of Representatives Speaker Kevin McCarthy.
The complexities of the Russian-Ukrainian War have contributed to rising tensions between Beijing and Washington since February 2022. Despite unsuccessfully attempting to bring China into the Western sanctions regime against Russia,
America is aware that Beijing’s maintenance of strong trade relations with Russia hinders their plans to cripple the Russian economy.
When China proposed a cease-fire initiative in Ukraine in March, the US quickly accused Chinese companies of supplying military equipment to Russia. This accusation served to dash any hope of the Chinese plan succeeding.
The competition between China and the US for global status is showing no signs of abating. With the fall of the Berlin Wall and the dissolution of the Soviet Union, the US has remained the sole superpower in the world. Meanwhile, China looks to its economic strength to challenge this hegemony and establish a new multipolar world order.
Blinken’s trip to Beijing was intended to reduce tensions and de-escalate matters. However, two days after he left, Biden referred to the Chinese leader as a “dictator,” suggesting things remain unchanged. Thus, the US-China feud continues – as both strive for preeminence in the international arena. – Samih Saeb
Riyadh, Tehran, direct dialogue
Al Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, June 22
The China-brokered agreement between the Islamic Republic of Iran and Saudi Arabia, announced in March, was not a fleeting, superficial event, but rather the basis for the renewal of relations between the two nations, following a rupture that had lasted seven years.
This agreement is an extension of the courageous initiative of His Highness Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, to strengthen bilateral relations and promote good neighborliness, mutual respect and peaceful conflict resolution with the kingdom’s allies. Exactly one year after the speech of the crown prince, Saudi Arabia and Iran reached an agreement in the Chinese capital.
His Excellency, Foreign Minister of Saudi Arabia Prince Faisal bin Farhan, and his counterpart, Iran’s Foreign Minister Dr. Hossein Amir-Abdollahian, took the historic and unprecedented first step of reestablishing diplomatic relations between the two countries. This was done by Iran reopening its embassy and consulate in Riyadh as well as its representation to the Organization of Islamic Cooperation in Jeddah.
The next step was the Saudi foreign minister’s historic and exceptional visit to Tehran – the first of its kind in over a decade – which had great political, security and economic implications for the two countries and for the region’s future.
Bin Farhan met with Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi recently to cement and expand the bilateral relations between the two countries. During the visit, the foreign minister delivered a message from King Salman expressing Saudi Arabia’s commitment to strengthening the ties between the two countries. During the visit, Bin Farhan also held talks with key Iranian officials and discussed matters regarding the reopening of the Saudi Embassy in Tehran.
The two sides also discussed topics related to the agreement they signed in Beijing with the mutual aim of intensifying their efforts to bring about peace and security on an international scale.
There is no doubt that reconciliation between Saudi Arabia and Iran will have a profoundly positive effect on the leadership, governments and people of the two countries. The implications of such a resolution could extend far beyond mere politics and reach countless other issues and domains. Such a rapprochement would be a signal to all states that disputes can be resolved through dialogue and peaceful means rather than conflict and strife.
Recently, Iranian Deputy Foreign Minister for Consular Affairs Dr. Alireza Bikdeli declared that cooperation between the two countries was entering a “new chapter.”
Further evidence of this comes in the form of the potential establishment of a joint maritime alliance comprising Saudi Arabia, the UAE and Iran, which could improve the security and stability of the region. By building upon the positions already established in past agreements and the positive results of the visit of the Saudi foreign minister to Tehran, both countries can move forward with various projects to create a promising future for the region. – Muhammad Ali Al-Husseini
Translated by Asaf Zilberfarb.