The virtual summit held Monday between US President Joe Biden and China’s President Xi Jinping produced nothing in the way of an agreement or breakthrough on any of the issues preventing US-China relations from continuing their downward slide. This was hardly a surprise. Regardless of the hype projected by the media, the expectations for Monday’s talks were low. This was evident today in how both sides attempted to frame the results of the virtual summit. Officials from the Biden administration were quick to point out that the discussions covered a host of topics considered important by both sides. Taiwan, the treatment of Uyghur Muslims in China and the present trade impasse were matters talked about at length. Biden was even able to bring up the prospect of arms control talks in the future. It is clear from his comments and positions that Biden continues to regard China as a competitor more so than an opponent or potential enemy. His administration will continue to work with China on matters of mutual interest and confront Beijing when events call for it. In other words, no changes in US policy are on the horizon.
What Biden and his foreign policy team refuses to acknowledge is that China already considers the US to be an adversary. This much is evident by China’s actions of late. While Chinese officials publicly call for greater engagement between the two powers, the PLAN and PLAAF apply more pressure to Taiwan and operate freely in the South China Sea without fear of the US response. China’s military and geopolitical moves in recent months make it clear Beijing is playing an intricate game of chess while the Biden administration is playing checkers. Chess is a contest of strategy where each move has a purpose. Checkers is a contest where strategy plays a minimal role, and the game results are largely determined in the first few moves.
Adversaries play chess. Friendly competitors play checkers.