While the Biden administration has been very successful thus far on the alliance-building front, we’ve yet to see the establishment of a sustainable working relationship with China, largely because of Beijing’s resistance to the Biden administration’s proposed framework. I would count the upcoming summit as a success if the two leaders are able to jointly affirm that neither side seeks conflict or a new cold war and that they are empowering officials at the working levels to lay the foundations for responsible competition, including jointly working on pressing issues such as crisis management, nonproliferation, and climate change.
The Biden administration has framed the right approach toward China—declaring that Washington will seek to simultaneously compete and cooperate with Beijing while working closely with friends and allies to effectively meet the challenges posed by China. But operationalizing this strategy is no easy feat. Most critically, Beijing has yet to accept this framework thus far and has made clear that U.S.-Chinese cooperation is impossible as long as tensions exist in the broader relationship. Moreover, although there have been some notable achievements in bolstering U.S. alliances in recent weeks, there have also been setbacks with European partners following the chaotic withdrawal from Afghanistan and the surprise announcement of AUKUS, the Australia-United Kingdom-United States defense pact. Persistent and creative diplomacy and the careful balancing of interests, ideals, and relationships will be necessary to ensure that U.S. alliances remain robust and that U.S.-Chinese relations do not fray beyond repair and stray into dangerous territory.