US-China detente, not

Bill Bishop of Sinocism with the note:

The expectations for the Biden-Xi video chat were low and they were met. The fact that they are talking is positive, and it sounds like the September call between the leaders created conditions with the PRC system for lower-level officials to start engaging more constructively on some issues. This latest meeting is likely to do the same.

There have been working-level discussions, mostly run out of the US embassy I hear, and I believe one of the outcomes from this latest meeting is more structured discussions on specific topics, though nothing like the “strategic” dialogues of the earlier Era. This morning National Security Adviser Sullivan mentioned in a talk to the Brookings Institution that the two sides would “look to begin to carry forward discussions on strategic stability”, though he said they would not be like the structured, mature US-Russia talks on that topic.

Talking is better than not talking, and if the leaders can figure out how to put guardrails in place to avoid colliding into conflict (perhaps we need Jersey Barriers too) then that is positive. I do not get the sense that Xi and his team believe their approach to the Biden Administration has been unsuccessful so I would not expect any significant, substantive changes to the tone or the trajectory.

The Chinese side leaked after the meeting that the US and China have reached a deal in allowing more journalists into their respective countries. It is not clear if that means that US journalists who had to leave will be allowed back in, or if they will only approve visas for new reporters.

One thing to watch for is whether state media tone down the vitriol towards the US, and if there is a shift in public opinion management on the Chinese Internet to narrow the scope for anti-US sentiment? Perhaps the former may happen, I would not bet on the latter.

Another question is whether the conventional wisdom that a PRC leader seeks to stabilize US-China relations in the year before a Party Congress will be operative from now until the 20th Party Congress. I have heard arguments that Xi needs to have a stable, constructive US-China relationship to help him achieve his political goals, and I do think that has been the case in prior Party Congress cycles. I am not so sure this time, as we are in the New Era, and Xi has emerged from this Plenum with even greater leadership supremacy, at least some of which I believe has accrued from his approach to dealing with the US, and with the general view from inside his system that the US is in decline.

The full text of the “Resolution of the CPC Central Committee on the Major Achievements and Historical Experience of the Party over the Past Century 中共中央关于党的百年奋斗重大成就和历史经验的决议” is out, as is Xi’s explanation of the rationale for the resolution and the process involved in its drafting. The relevant organs released official English translations of both documents, though as always the Chinese-language version is the more important one.

I have read the explanation and skimmed through the resolution, it deserves and will get a closer read.

It is a forward-looking document, more about creating history as summarizing it. Xi’s explainer tells us the official reason for creating this third historical resolution:

The Central Committee considers it important in both a practical and historical sense to have a comprehensive review of the major achievements and historical experience of the Party over the past century as we celebrate its centenary and the fulfillment of the First Centenary Goal of building a moderately prosperous society in all respects and move on toward the Second Centenary Goal of building China into a great modern socialist country in all respects. This review will help build a broader consensus and stronger unity in will and action among all members and rally and lead Chinese people of all ethnic groups in achieving new and great success in building socialism with Chinese characteristics in the new era.

I would be careful in how we interpret what is and what is not in this resolution compared with the prior two, as the resolution itself states:

The Party adopted the Resolution on Certain Questions in the History of Our Party at the seventh plenary session of its Sixth Central Committee in 1945 and the Resolution on Certain Questions in the History of Our Party since the Founding of the People’s Republic of China at the sixth plenary session of its 11th Central Committee in 1981.

These two resolutions embody a facts-based review of major events in the Party’s history, as well as important experience gained and lessons learned. These documents unified the whole Party in thinking and action at key historical junctures and played a vital guiding role in advancing the cause of the Party and the people. Their basic points and conclusions remain valid to this day.


And Xi’s explainer states:

…the resolution before us needs to focus on the new era of socialism with Chinese characteristics along with a brief summary of Party history prior to the 18th National Congress based on existing reviews and conclusions…

The previous two resolutions, along with the Party’s long list of important literature, document the major events, meetings, and figures in Party history prior to its 18th National Congress, and contain well-considered conclusions on historical issues. These points and conclusions are to be upheld in the new resolution.



There is a lot to go through in the full text but I want to start today with a followup to my comments in the November 11 newsletter “6th Plenum Communique and historical resolution”) I wrote that the summary read like a bit of a diminution of Deng Xiaoping’s stature relative to Mao and Xi’s. That newsletter talked a bit about the shifting usage of “leap飞跃“,translated as breakthrough or step in the official English version, and how it was used to describe Mao Zedong Thought and Xi Jinping Thought on Socialism with Chinese Characteristics for a New Era but not Deng Xiaoping Theory.

In the full resolution, in the section on the third period of CCP history, the “Reform, Opening up, and Socialist Modernization” period of Deng, Jiang Zemin, and Hu Jintao, the resolution mentions a “new breakthrough” but does not directly tie it to Deng, and credits “The Party”:

The Party came to recognize that to open up new prospects for reform, opening up, and socialist modernization, it needed to steer the advancement of its endeavors with theoretical innovation. Comrade Deng Xiaoping once said, “When everything has to be done by the book, when thinking turns rigid and blind faith is the fashion, it is impossible for a party or a nation to make progress. Its life will cease and that party or nation will perish.” With this understanding, the Party led and supported extensive discussions on the criterion for testing truth, upheld and developed Marxism in light of new practices and the features of the times, and effectively answered a series of basic questions regarding socialism with Chinese characteristics, including development path, stage of development, fundamental tasks, development drivers, development strategies, political guarantee, national reunification, diplomacy and international strategy, leadership, and forces to rely on, thereby forming the theory of socialism with Chinese characteristics and achieving a new breakthrough in adapting Marxism to the Chinese context.


In the section on Xi Jinping Thought on Socialism with Chinese Characteristics for a New Era Xi gets the credit, not “the Party”.

Comrade Xi Jinping, through meticulous assessment and deep reflection on a number of major theoretical and practical questions regarding the cause of the Party and the country in the new era, has set forth a series of original new ideas, thoughts, and strategies on national governance revolving around the major questions of our times: what kind of socialism with Chinese characteristics we should uphold and develop in this new era, what kind of great modern socialist country we should build, and what kind of Marxist party exercising long-term governance we should develop, as well as how we should go about achieving these tasks. He is thus the principal founder of Xi Jinping Thought on Socialism with Chinese Characteristics for a New Era. This is the Marxism of contemporary China and of the 21st century. It embodies the best of the Chinese culture and ethos in our times and represents a new breakthrough in adapting Marxism to the Chinese context. The Party has established Comrade Xi Jinping’s core position on the Party Central Committee and in the Party as a whole, and defined the guiding role of Xi Jinping Thought on Socialism with Chinese Characteristics for a New Era. This reflects the common will of the Party, the armed forces, and Chinese people of all ethnic groups, and is of decisive significance for advancing the cause of the Party and the country in the new era and for driving forward the historic process of national rejuvenation.


It is probably worth mentioning that the only thought or theory that is credited as an “historic step/leap in adapting Marxism to the Chinese context 马克思主义中国化的第一次历史性飞跃” is Mao Zedong Thought.

I may be going too far down the rabbit hole, but Xi really does seem to not like Deng Xiaoping, perhaps because of what Deng did to Xi dada’s daddy?

1. Biden-Xi meeting

Readout of President Biden’s Virtual Meeting with President Xi Jinping of the People’s Republic of China | The White House

The two leaders discussed the complex nature of relations between our two countries and the importance of managing competition responsibly…

President Biden raised concerns about the PRC’s practices in Xinjiang, Tibet, and Hong Kong, as well as human rights more broadly. He was clear about the need to protect American workers and industries from the PRC’s unfair trade and economic practices. He also discussed the importance of a free and open Indo-Pacific, and communicated the continued determination of the United States to uphold our commitments in the region. President Biden reiterated the importance of freedom of navigation and safe overflight to the region’s prosperity. On Taiwan, President Biden underscored that the United States remains committed to the “one China” policy, guided by the Taiwan Relations Act, the three Joint Communiques, and the Six Assurances, and that the United States strongly opposes unilateral efforts to change the status quo or undermine peace and stability across the Taiwan Strait.

President Biden also underscored the importance of managing strategic risks. He noted the need for common-sense guardrails to ensure that competition does not veer into conflict and to keep lines of communication open. He raised specific transnational challenges where our interests intersect, such as health security. In particular, the two leaders discussed the existential nature of the climate crisis to the world and the important role that the United States and the PRC play. They also discussed the importance of taking measures to address global energy supplies. The two leaders also exchanged views on key regional challenges, including DPRK, Afghanistan, and Iran. Finally, they discussed ways for the two sides to continue discussions on a number of areas, with President Biden underscoring the importance of substantive and concrete conversations.

The much longer PRC readout – Xi, Biden pledge to steer China-U.S. relations back on right track – Xinhua

President Xi highlighted China’s commitment to peace, development, equity, justice, democracy and freedom, which are common values of humanity. Drawing ideological lines or dividing the world into different camps or rival groups will only make the world suffer. The bitter lessons of the Cold War are still fresh in memory. We hope that the US side can meet its word of not seeking a “new Cold War” with concrete actions.

President Xi stated China’s principled position on the Taiwan question. He noted the new wave of tensions across the Taiwan Strait, and ascribed the tensions to the repeated attempts by the Taiwan authorities to look for US support for their independence agenda as well as the intention of some Americans to use Taiwan to contain China. Such moves are extremely dangerous, just like playing with fire. Whoever plays with fire will get burnt. The one-China principle and the three China-US Joint Communiqués are the political foundation of China-US relations. Previous US administrations have all made clear commitments on this question. The true status quo of the Taiwan question and what lies at the heart of one China are as follows: there is but one China in the world and Taiwan is part of China, and the Government of the People’s Republic of China is the sole legal government representing China. Achieving China’s complete reunification is an aspiration shared by all sons and daughters of the Chinese nation. We have patience and will strive for the prospect of peaceful reunification with utmost sincerity and efforts. That said, should the separatist forces for Taiwan independence provoke us, force our hands or even cross the red line, we will be compelled to take resolute measures.


Biden, Xi Cool Down Hostilities in Virtual Meeting – WSJ $$

State broadcaster China Central Television said Mr. Biden offered reassurances that the U.S. would “not support ‘Taiwan independence’” and that it wouldn’t seek to change the Chinese system of government.


16 minute report on the CCTV Evening News on the meeting…the 4th report, about 38 minutes into the extra-long broadcast, as the first reports were on Xi’s explainer of the resolution and the resolution itself

It included the common scene of sometime taking notes while Xi is speaking, in this case the US President

Biden and Xi agree to start arms control talks, says US national security adviser Jake Sullivan | South China Morning Post

Sullivan said that the idea for US-China arms control talks were “not the same as what we have in the Russian context, with the formal strategic stability dialogue that is far more mature and has a much deeper history”.

Talks between Xi Jinping and Joe Biden do not herald a thaw | The Economist – Chaguan

China’s leaders still want investment and technology from the West, but they think it is in decadent decline and are decoupling from Western norms and ideas. One video call cannot begin to fix a relationship in crisis. Mid-November often brings spells of sunshine to Beijing, which do not last. In China’s ancient, 12-season calendar, the freezing periods called “small snow” and “big snow” are next. Relations with America face a similar ice age.

Xi bares 3 principles, 4 priorities in growing ties in new era to Biden in virtual meeting – Global Times

During the virtual meeting on Tuesday, Xi laid out three principles and four priority areas for China-US relations. In terms of principles, the two countries first need to respect each other’s social systems and development paths, respect each other’s core interests and major concerns, and respect each other’s right to development.

They also need to treat each other as equals, keep differences under control, and seek common ground while reserving differences. The other two principles include peaceful coexistence and win-win cooperation. …

Chinese top leader drew up several red lines for the US not only concerning sovereignty-related matters like the Taiwan question, but also on China’s social system and development path, with Biden reiterating that the US does not seek to change China’s system, the revitalization of its alliances is not anti-China, and the US has no intention to have a conflict with China.

China-U.S. Presidential Meeting:Setting Direction and Providing Impetus for Bilateral Relations – Transcript of Vice Foreign Minister Xie Feng’s Interview with the Press

A: The meeting can be recapped by a set of figures-3, 4, 2 and 1. To be specific, President Xi put forward three principles and four priority areas for growing China-U.S. relations; the two Presidents reached two principled common understandings; President Xi Jinping worked on the U.S. side on one important question.

On the three principles. At the meeting, President Xi pointed out the right way for China and the United States to get along in the new era: First, mutual respect. The two sides need to respect each other’s social systems and development paths, respect each other’s core interests and major concerns, and respect each other’s right to development. They need to treat each other as equals, keep differences under control, and seek common ground while reserving differences. Second, peaceful coexistence. No conflict and no confrontation is a line that both sides must hold. Third, win-win cooperation. The interests of China and the United States are deeply intertwined. The world is big enough for our two countries to develop individually and collectively. The right thing to do is to choose mutual benefit over zero-sum game or the I-win-you-lose approach.

On the four priority areas. President Xi identified at the meeting four areas where China and the United States should focus their efforts on:

First, shouldering responsibilities of major countries and leading global response to outstanding challenges…

Second, acting in the spirit of equality and mutual benefit to move forward exchanges at all levels and in all areas and generate more positive energy for China-U.S. relations….

Third, managing differences and sensitive issues in a constructive way to prevent China-U.S. relations from getting derailed or out of control…

Fourth, strengthening coordination and cooperation on major international and regional hotspot issues to provide more public goods to the world…

On the two principled common understandings. Both Presidents underscored the importance of China-U.S. relations…

Both Presidents expressed that their opposition to a “new Cold War” and that China and the United States should not have conflict or confrontation…

the “one important question”…the Taiwan question

Text of the Xie interview – 中美元首会晤为两国关系发展指明方向、注入动力 — 中华人民共和国外交部

习近平:关于《中共中央关于党的百年奋斗重大成就和 历史经验的决议》的说明

Buzzwords at the Biden-Xi Talks – China Media Project

As state media reported the issue of Taiwan in coverage of the talks, two phrases in particular came into focus. On its official Weibo account, the Chinese Communist Party’s flagship People’s Daily newspaper shared a quote card with US and Chinese national flags that read: “The Taiwan situation faces a new round of sensitivities, and the reason is that Taiwan authorities continually ‘lean on America in the pursuit of independence’ (倚美谋独), and certain people on the US side intentionally play [a game of] ‘using Taiwan to control China’ (以台制华).”

Biden, Xi stick to their positions but turn down the heat in three-hour talk | Reuters

The contentious issue of whether the United States will send White House envoys to the Beijing Winter Olympics in February did not come up, the U.S. official said.

Opinion | Biden administration soon to announce diplomatic boycott of the Beijing Olympics – The Washington Post

With the Beijing Winter Olympics just three months away, the Biden administration will soon have to make clear whether it plans to send an official delegation to China. But sooner rather than later, according to several sources familiar with the plans, the White House is expected to announce that neither President Biden nor any other U.S. government officials will attend the Beijing Games. This diplomatic boycott is intended, the sources say, as a way to respond to the Chinese government’s human rights abuses without impacting U.S. athletes.

World War II US veterans recall flying aid to China – AP

Veterans and officials from China and the United States on Tuesday celebrated the 80th anniversary of the Flying Tigers, American pilots who flew for China in World War II, as a historic example of better relations and cooperation….

Relations face a “serious test,” said the Chinese ambassador to Washington, Qin Gang. He pointed to the Flying Tigers as an example of cooperation for tackling global issues such as COVID-19 and climate change. security or other matters without explanation to the public.” The article suggested that Wong “needed to reflect” on her actions in the past.

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