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Miles Yu: Xi Jinping Misjudges U.S. Politics in Making Abstract Demands of Biden

In July’s episode of the “China Insider” podcast hosted by Miles Yu, who served as principal China policy and planning adviser under former U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, Yu talked about how Xi Jinping misjudged U.S.-China relations this year. According to Yu, Xi’s main concern has not been specific U.S. policies but rather how U.S. political ideology might influence the Chinese Communist Party’s (CCP’s) regime. Xi wished to secure a series of commitments from U.S. leadership, but what Xi asked for was not easy for the U.S. to carry out concretely. Thus Xi’s perceived stumbling blocks in U.S.-China relations have not been addressed.

In a March 2023 phone call, Biden agreed to several abstract requests made by Xi, including commitments regarding U.S. geopolitical influence over China and Taiwan. Biden’s administration has not followed up with concrete actions, however. Yu points out that Xi operates within communist China’s authoritarian and dictatorial model, so he has been unable to understand why his demands are unrealistic from the perspective of the U.S. model of government.

Yu said that Xi made several strong demands of Biden during their phone call in March.

  • First, Xi hoped that the U.S. government would clearly state that it does not seek “regime change” in China. Biden thought for a moment and gave a commitment on that.
  • Second, Xi demanded that the Biden government assure China that it won’t organize “anti-China alliances.” Biden thought about this request and said that the U.S. has a strong alliance system worldwide, but there is no alliance system specifically targeting a particular country. So Biden agreed to this request by Xi.
  • Third, Xi Jinping asked Biden to promise not to support Taiwan independence. Biden agreed.

Following the phone call, Xi believed that he had secured some fundamental ideological commitments from the U.S. government. The Biden administration, on the other hand, felt that Xi’s demands were abstract and unrealistic (hard or impossible to implement) — this is why Biden was willing to agree to them.

After the phone call, the U.S. government didn’t take any concrete measures based on Xi’s demands — they couldn’t be implemented. China has been complaining that President Biden has not kept his promises and hasn’t taken concrete actions. Under pressure from the Chinese Communist Party (CCP), the Biden administration sent cabinet-level members to China to visit, hoping to implement some measures from the March phone call. However, these officials (including Antony Blinken, Janet Yellen, and John Kerry) focused on specific, practical matters and did not address the larger strategic issues that were irking Xi. Indeed, in Yu’s assessment, Xi and the CCP have a misguided understanding about how the U.S. political system works — despite a series of cabinet-level visits to China, Xi’s demands couldn’t be addressed.

Source: Hudson Institute Website, July 28, 2023