Biden’s political motivation to strengthen US-China relations is still debatable.

Despite the US ambassador to China’s apparent soft rhetoric in which he rejected a cold war between the world’s two largest economies and referred to “decoupling” as unhealthy and “not smart,” some Chinese observers said on Wednesday that China should not be seduced by those “beautiful words” because the key to reversing the deterioration of US-China relations is whether the US government has the political will to implore Beijing to change its ways.

US Ambassador to China Nicholas Burns said on Tuesday at a virtual event hosted by the Washington-based think tank Stimson Center that the US is prepared to undertake high-level conversations with China and wants to improve lines of communication between the two nations.

The US’s relationship with China is still “complicated” and competitive, but Washington doesn’t want to go to war with Beijing and thinks greater communication would be beneficial, according to Burns.

Burns’ statements are seen as “follow-up” comments made after several top US officials discussed the US-China ties, which are thought to be the most important and complicated ones. Following comments made by US Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen on April 20 that the two nations “can and need to find a way to live together,” US National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan said on April 27 at the US think tank Brookings Institution that the US is not attempting to “decouple” its economy from China’s.

“Yellen, Sullivan, and Burns all emphasized dialogue, but they did not mention anything about correcting the wrongdoings of the Biden administration, for example, about the [US-launched] trade war or tech restrictions [against China],” said Lü Xiang, a research fellow at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, to the Global Times on Wednesday.

This demonstrates that, while the US government hasn’t made it clear that it will stop engaging in wrongdoing, it also worries that China will retaliate if it continues to put pressure on issues like Taiwan, Xinjiang, the South China Sea, and fentanyl, Lü said. Burns’ comments, he said, “serve to ‘test the water’ to determine how far China would accept their policies.

Relations between the US and China have deteriorated, particularly after the US shot down a Chinese blimp intended for civilian use in February, which Chinese diplomats and experts called “hysterical and absurd.” According to US media sources, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken’s planned trip to China after the airship disaster was canceled, even though the Chinese side didn’t confirm such a trip.

Tsai Ing-wen, a regional leader from Taiwan who was traveling through the US on the pretense of “transit,” met with US House Speaker Kevin McCarthy in California at the beginning of April. Since it was a significant provocation by the US side and went against the one-China concept, this episode also prompted vehement protest from the Chinese side.

Some Chinese analysts feel Beijing currently has little interest in dealing with Washington because of the fact that Washington’s actions have always been at odds with its words. According to them, the US cannot come up with these “sweet words” while stabbing China in the back. The US has not yet followed through on the promise that US President Joe Biden made to the senior official of China at a meeting that took place on the fringes of the G20 leaders’ summit in Bali in November 2022.

must follow through on its promises

Burns said at the event on Tuesday that the US government has maintained a consistent stance toward the island of Taiwan, urging that any settlement of the disputes across the Taiwan Straits must be peaceful.

It is up to the US to determine if ties between the US and China will improve soon. The US should demonstrate via deeds rather than just words that “it’s not always the greatest talker who is the least doer.” The China Foreign Affairs University’s Li Haidong told the Global Times on Wednesday.

Burns visited the Center for American Studies at Fudan University on April 26 and talked with Chinese researchers there, including the center’s director Wu Xinbo, before going to the Stimson Center’s online event. According to Wu, who spoke to the Global Times on Wednesday, “the window of opportunity for the improvement of China-US relations this year is slowly closing, that is, time is running out.”

There are two main categories: The first is the Taiwan issue. Instead of doing one way and speaking another, the US should adopt a one-China policy. The second is that the US shouldn’t create technological blockades against China with such ‘decoupling’ steps, Wu added.

“It’s unclear whether Washington genuinely wants to have dialogue with Beijing or it just intends to create this false image of managing strategic rivalry with China and putting it under control in front of its allies,” Li Haidong said. He was of the opinion that any change in rhetoric won’t hide the US’ true intention of “decoupling” from key areas in its China policy, which is set to create conflict and division.

Additionally, it depends on how motivated politically the Biden administration is to strengthen the two-way relations. Burns may have made certain remarks that are favorable for US-China ties, but the Biden administration will not be much impacted by such remarks, Wu said.