Editor’s Note: WPR editor-in-chief Judah Grunstein is filling in today for Stewart Patrick, who will be back next week.
U.S. President Joe Biden will hold a video summit Monday with his Chinese counterpart, Xi Jinping, their first face-to-face encounter since Biden took office in January. The meeting, which is reportedly the culmination of background exploratory talks over the past month, follows several high-profile encounters between top-level officials that veered toward the explosive. Sparks flew in Anchorage, Alaska, when both sides’ senior diplomats met for the first time in March. More recently, Wendy Sherman, deputy secretary of state, faced an acrimonious reception in Tianjin when she visited in July.
The leaders’ summit suggests that both sides might be ready to lower the temperature a bit, even if only to find a more productive modus operandi for managing relations. It takes place after five years of heightened tensions and rivalry between the world’s leading power and nearest peer competitor, in which relations have grown volatile and envenomed, with attitudes hardening on both sides. The emerging hawkish consensus in the U.S., mirrored by China’s “wolf warrior” diplomacy, has led observers in the U.S. and around the world to begin speaking of a new Cold War, with implications for the global economy and the stability of the world order.