Joe-Jinping jaw-jaw, better than war-war

It’s not quite the 21st-century equivalent of the beginning of the end of the Opium Wars, the two 19th-century conflicts between China and Western powers triggered by the Chinese government’s attempts to enforce the ban on opium sold by the British East India Company. But China agreeing to stop the US export of items related to the production of fentanyl – an opioid that has reportedly caused the deaths of thousands of American drug users last year alone – is also a signal that Xi Jinping and Joe Biden‘s meeting on Wednesday can herald a detoxification process in China-US relations. The other points of conversation between the two leaders at Filoli, the country house in San Francisco used as location in the 80s American TV series Dynasty, were tackling AI and restoring high-level military communications. It’s a start to bringing stability in an unstable global terrain.

But let not San Francisco’s reputation for ‘peace and love’ – a bit outdated, considering homelessness, drug abuse and crime have overtaken earlier hippie vibes – make us stretch ground reality. Hours after their tryst, Biden described his counterpart as a definitional ‘dictator’ and that with China, the US would be on ‘trust but verify’ mode. This is only to be expected, especially with elections around the corner where bashing China will be hitting the pinata. Beijing, too, understands this. It has issued a statement that ‘a stable and growing China is good for the United States and the whole world’, adding as a ‘lekin’ that the US ‘should not scheme to suppress and contain China’.

With at least two major wars, economic concerns and trading clashes beleaguering the world, the right kind of rhetoric matters. What matters more, though, is that both sides need cooler heads to prevail for their own domestic safety, gains and peace of mind. China, for its put-puting economy to recover, and the US to firm up loosening global value chains it cannot do without despite protectionist hollers. If nothing else, an amicable jaw-jaw eats up time worse spent in war-war.


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