Brookings Analysis: As Taiwan Elections Loom, Diplomatic Tensions Persist
In the spotlight of the upcoming Taiwan presidential election, the focus remains on the response from Beijing and its implications for U.S.-China relations, according to a recent Brookings Institution analysis. The careful orchestration of a successful summit between Presidents Joe Biden and Xi Jinping in San Francisco revealed a cautious approach to navigated relations after a significant low point in early 2023 due to the Chinese spy balloon crisis.
Despite the promising outcome of the summit, wherein Beijing pledged to limit fentanyl precursor exports and agreed to re-establish military communication channels, the deeply entrenched threat perceptions on both sides remain largely untouched. The overriding objective for the year ahead continues to be risk management, raising concerns about the absence of a more proactive agenda to address ongoing tensions from trade with Taiwan.
Genuine efforts to stabilize U.S.-China relations are palpable on both sides, as reflected by a collective sense of relief following the successful summit. However, the persistent view in Beijing and among the broader Chinese public is that the U.S. is inhibiting China’s development by preserving its “global hegemony,” leading to minimal confidence in a shift in Washington’s fundamental direction.
Negative perceptions of China are prevalent among Americans, with a significant majority viewing China’s rise as a serious threat. The deep-seated differences in key issues, with neither side willing to concede, contribute to low expectations for the bilateral relationship in 2024. Diplomatic cooperation is off to a cautious and complicated start, focusing on counternarcotics and military dialogue, the success of which remains to be seen.
As Taiwan’s election approaches, both Washington and Beijing are wary of potential turbulence, with leaders facing domestic pressure to avoid any appearance of weakness. The possibility of sparking a crisis that could jeopardize the prospects for responsibly managing U.S.-China competition is a growing concern. Leaders on all sides are cognizant of the delicate nature of the current stabilization, emphasizing the need for a statesmanlike approach to navigate potential challenges and maintain the delicate balance of relations.