The New StatesmanThe New Statesman

Resolving US-China tensions needs more than just superpower diplomacy

By Katie Stallard

19 Jun 2023 · 6 min read

informed Summary

  1. Antony Blinken’s visit to Beijing gives cause for optimism, writes The New Statesman’s Katie Stallard. But improving relations between the U.S. and China will rely as much on national politics as the international situation.

In the skies above the South China Sea last month, a US reconnaissance aircraft was on a routine mission in international airspace when a Chinese fighter jet intercepted it. The cockpit video showed the Chinese J-16 cutting across the nose of the American war plane, which juddered in the turbulence from its wake. Washington condemned the “unnecessarily aggressive manoeuvre”, but Beijing insisted the US was to blame for conducting “dangerous acts of provocation” that supposedly threatened China’s sovereignty and security.

Eight days later, on 3 June, the USS Chung-Hoon, a US navy destroyer, was transiting the Taiwan Strait alongside a Canadian frigate when a Chinese guided-missile destroyer veered across their path. The warships came within 137 metres of each other, according to the US military, which said the Chung-Hoon had been forced to reduce its speed to “avoid a collision”. Washington protested the “unsafe” interaction, but once again Beijing accused the US and Canada of “deliberately provoking risk” by sailing through the area. Song Zhongping, a prominent Chinese military commentator, applauded the “point-blank interception” as a testament to the navy’s “courage”.

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