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Neither [President Biden or President Xi] will want to be seen as softening his approach toward the other, but at the same time, neither leader will see profit in allowing the relationship to escalate significantly beyond current levels of tension. As such, the relationship likely will navigate between a pretty firm floor and ceiling over the coming year.
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.