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China has a strategic dilemma. They’re frustrated by the status quo, and they’re probing for ways to change it. But taking big, bold actions would come at an extraordinary cost to them. You can’t eliminate the possibility that they would be willing to pay that cost, and so we have to be prepared for it. But if you accept the proposition that war is inevitable, and we must do everything we possibly can to prepare for it now, then you risk precipitating the very outcome that your strategy is designed to prevent.
Both leaders held their ground on key issues without offering concessions in either direction. Even so, Biden and Xi clearly set a tone for their respective governments that tensions must be managed and that neither side seeks unbridled confrontation with the other.