US should prioritize ‘guard rails’ in its relations with China this year, says White House official

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The US should build “guardrails” more quickly in its ties with China in 2023, the top White House official for Asia policy said Thursday, as one analyst expected a year of “co-opetition” between the two nations.

Kurt Campbell, deputy aide to US President Joe Biden and coordinator for Indo-Pacific Affairs at the National Security Council, called the meeting between Biden and his Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping in Indonesia in November an important attempt “to build a foundation floor” in the bilateral relationship.

“Maybe 2023 is the time to build some guardrails,” he told a forum at the Center for Strategic and International Studies think tank in Washington.

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“While we believe competition will continue to be the dominant feature of US-China relations, we want it to be productive, peaceful competition,” Campbell said.

Kurt Campbell, National Security Council Coordinator for Indo-Pacific Affairs. Photo: YouTube alt=Kurt Campbell, National Security Council Coordinator for Indo-Pacific Affairs. Photo: YouTube>

“And we really want to channel that into arenas that are good for both of our peoples.”

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Scott Kennedy, a CSIS senior adviser and chairman of China’s business and economics, also at the forum, said Campbell’s comments showed the Biden administration was trying to pull a diplomatic needle through the thread: expanding dialogue and finding territories to work with Beijing as China continues to pressurize technology export controls with allies in the Indo-Pacific region and elsewhere.

“I don’t see the US taking a foot off the gas on these technological moves,” he said.

“But I think this year will be different and we will see a recognition that generalized economic decoupling is not possible,” he said.

Scott Kennedy of the Center for Strategic and International Studies. Photo: CSIS alt=Scott Kennedy of the Center for Strategic and International Studies. Photo: CSIS>

“2023 will be the year of ‘collaboration’ with China in economics and technology,” he said, adding that this year is likely to see more financial sector connectivity between the two economies, rather than less.

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Tensions between the world’s two largest economies, and concerns about how they might pan out, continue into the new year. The US House of Representatives this week overwhelmingly approved a new select committee on strategic competition between the US and China, while the US State Department last month created a “China House” to oversee policy within the department. coordinate.

Washington and Beijing face a broad landscape of contentious issues, from an intensifying tech war to Taiwan’s security, but in Indonesia the two sides agreed that there remained room for joint efforts in areas such as responses to the climate crisis .

“Guardrails” has emerged as a keyword in Washington regarding China almost since Biden took office about two years ago. Since at least mid-2021, senior US officials have used the phrase as shorthand for managing the US-China relationship in a “responsible” manner to prevent tensions from spiraling into conflict.

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken invoked the same theme on Wednesday when he discussed his upcoming trip to China to follow up on the Biden-Xi discussions. guardrails to prevent competition … from turning into conflict”.

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“We will compete responsibly, but we will compete vigorously,” he said at a news conference following a meeting of the US-Japan Security Consultation Committee.

China’s new foreign minister Qin Gang, who served as Beijing’s ambassador to Washington for 17 months before his appointment, has called on the two nations to find the “right way” to interact.

“The future of both our peoples — indeed, the future of the entire planet — depends on a healthy and stable relationship between China and the United States,” he wrote in an op-ed in The Washington Post last week.

This article originally appeared in the South China Morning Post (SCMP), the most authoritative voice reporting on China and Asia for more than a century. For more SCMP stories, explore the SCMP app or visit SCMP’s Facebook page Twitter Pages. Copyright © 2023 South China Morning Post Publishers Ltd. All rights reserved.

Copyright (c) 2023. South China Morning Post Publishers Ltd. All rights reserved.