Breakfast with Bwana
By Anil Madan
Joe Biden-Xi Jinping Meeting in Bali. Pic – Detikcom
Presidents Biden and Xi met for some three hours on the sidelines at the conference of G20 countries in Bali.
I have previously written about the lack of imagination shown by the world’s leaders in taking meaningful steps to solve common problems and advance peaceful cooperation. The Biden-Xi meeting was so bereft of imagination and leadership that it might have been better not to have held it. At the end of the three-hour discussion, the predominant theme from both countries was that each President declared the red lines that the other mustn’t cross.
If the measure of leadership is drawing red lines, it is little wonder that the world remains unable to handle its troubles. Scoring the earth with deeper red lines with your counterpart sitting across from you is not the way to reconcile differences, only to re-emphasize that you have no interest in compromise.
This outcome was not a surprise. In the runup to the Bali get-together, National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan said that President Biden would be “totally straightforward and direct” with President Xi and that the administration was not looking to “reset” the relationship. If there is any relationship that needs to be reset, it is the US-China relationship. If Biden and Xi were content to travel to Bali to declare “We are here to say that we will leave things as they are and not work on resetting how we deal with each other or with the world’s problems”, why bother?
President Biden had set this theme in his own pre-meeting comments: “What I want to do with him when we talk is lay out what each of our red lines are and understand what he believes to be in the critical national interests of China, what I know to be critical interests of the United States, and determine whether or not they conflict with one another.”
A real leader might have framed things differently: “President Xi and I have an opportunity to meet after a long hiatus due to Covid. I look forward to advancing my ideas and hearing his ideas on how we can implement solutions to the problems facing our countries and the world at large.” Of course, if you have no ideas for solving problems, you draw red lines.
Chinese spokespersons made comments to the same effect and indeed after the two Presidents had spoken, China’s state media agency Xinhua, reported that Xi had warned Biden that Taiwan is a red line that the US must not cross as the two nations work to elevate China-US relations. And, of course, as usual, the issues of Hong Kong, human rights, Uyghurs, Tibet, and so forth are off limits because China considers them “internal” matters. Read More… Become a Subscriber
Mauritius Times ePaper Friday 18 November 2022
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