U.S. official: China wants to stabilize relations


Biden’s Indo-Pacific coordinator predicts developments that are “reassuring to the region.”

U.S. official: China wants to stabilize relations

Kurt M. Campbell, the U.S. Indo-Pacific coordinator on the National Security Council [shown in this file photo], says “What I saw in Bali … was a China that at least in the short – and perhaps the initial medium term – is also interested in stabilizing U.S.-China relations.”

Beijing and Washington both have a genuine desire to stabilize relations and establish “guardrails” after months of intensifying tensions, a top Biden administration official said on Thursday.

Speaking to former Clinton administration official Joseph Nye at the Aspen Security Forum in Washington, Kurt Campbell, the Indo-Pacific coordinator on the National Security Council, said last month’s meeting between Chinese President Xi Jinping and U.S. President Joe Biden had produced tangible successes.

“What I saw in Bali, Joe, was a China that, at least in the short and perhaps the initial-medium term, is also interested in stabilizing U.S.-China relations,” Campbell said, explaining that China had been rocked by a series of domestic and foreign crises. 

He listed territorial disputes with Japan and India, the zero-COVID policy, China’s economy more broadly and the failure of “Wolf Warrior” diplomacy as among the problems on Beijing’s plate.

“I don’t think I need to go into that, but I think all of that suggests to me that the last thing that the Chinese need right now is an openly hostile relationship with the United States,” he said. “They want a degree of predictability and stability, and we seek that as well.”

China would now be less reluctant to engage in practical “great power diplomacy” with the United States, Campbell said. 

“We’re going to see some developments that I believe will be reassuring to the region as a whole,” he said.

The past few months have seen a slew of predictions of conflict breaking out from U.S. officials, with figures like the head of naval operations and Secretary of State Antony Blinken sounding the alarm about growing Chinese aggressiveness, and the Pentagon reporting that Beijing is rapidly growing its nuclear arsenal.

But others have also played down the notion of conflict: Mark Milley, the chairman of the joint chiefs of staff, said last month that predictions of an imminent Chinese invasion of Taiwan were overblown.

Campbell told the Aspen Forum on Thursday that Russia’s invasion of Ukraine had also led more countries in the world to realize that “what happens in the Taiwan Straits is not somehow isolated there” and to consequently voice their concerns in talks with Beijing.

“What we are seeing is more diplomacy and behind-the-scenes discussions about developments across the Taiwan Strait,” he said. “That is generally a positive trend, and I think it’s something that we should encourage, in terms of making clear to all the actors about the need to take careful, prudent steps with this situation.”

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