Schumer’s China visit continues momentum of high-level contacts

Schumer’s China visit continues momentum of high-level contacts

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Schumer’s China visit continues momentum of high-level contacts

US Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (center) and other members of the bipartisan delegation arrive at Shanghai Pudong International Airport to kick off their China visit on Saturday, October 7, 2023.

A bipartisan delegation of senators led by US Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer arrived in Shanghai on Saturday. While expressing hope that the visit would be an opportunity for US politicians to gain more understanding of China, some analysts said that Schumer’s visit is more about aligning with the Biden administration’s recent “tactical” adjustments to enhance engagement with China. They called on the US to take more actions to improve the complicated bilateral relations rather than add obstacles.. 

A detailed itinerary of the US congressional delegation’s trip in China has not been released but Schumer will reportedly meet with senior Chinese officials in Shanghai and Beijing. According to some media, the delegation will also visit South Korea and Japan with “the goal of advancing US economic and national security interests” in the region. 

Schumer’s journey to China, which is also the first congressional visit to the nation since 2019, has particular significance for US-China ties, analysts said. 

Schumer has long been a critic of China and supported several unfavorable laws regarding China. In light of the present complicated situation, the trip demonstrated the need to continue communication between China and the US, Sun Chenghao, a fellow and head of the US-EU program at the Centre for International Security and Strategy in Tsinghua University, told the Global Times. 

The Chinese Foreign Ministry said on Wednesday that China welcomes Schumer’s visit, and hopes that it will contribute to a more objective understanding of China in the US Congress, increase dialogue and communication between the legislatures of the two countries, and add positive factors to the growth of China-US relations. 

During his stay in China, Schumer may discuss the possibility of improving legislative exchanges between China and the US and also update his understanding of China to make preparations for another comprehensive competition bill against China. Moreover, as a Democrat, Schumer may help the Biden administration in gathering information on China’s attitude during the visit, said Sun. 

In May, US Senate Democrats, led by Schumer, launched a renewed effort to create a bill – dubbed “China Competition 2.0” – to limit the flow of technology to China, Reuters reported. 

Senators from both parties are in the visiting group, including Republican Senator Mike Crapo, the senior member of his party on the Senate Finance Committee, and two additional Democratic Senators and another two Republican Senators. Domestic politics and the upcoming election are also reasons for these senators to join in the delegation, and some think they will use the occasion to talk about issues involving China, such as Micron Technology’s capacity to conduct business in China, some experts said. 

Before the visit, Schumer’s office said on Tuesday that he planned to talk to Chinese officials about human rights, concerns about fentanyl and “China’s role in the international community,” the Associated Press reported. 

It is not unexpected that Schumer will bring up these issues given the bipartisan consensus to maintain competitiveness and a tough stance toward China, and the extreme division of US politics has also encouraged hardliners to criticize other politicians with varying degrees of anti-China sentiment, said Sun. 

More actions urged 

Schumer and the bipartisan delegation’s visit coincided with growing speculation about a meeting of top leaders from China and the US on the sidelines of next month’s Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation Summit in San Francisco. 

US President Joe Biden told reporters on Friday that such a meeting “is a possibility,” but no information had come from China. Analysts have urged the US to make more of an effort to foster amicability rather than put obstacles in the way of a higher-level meeting. 

Apart from Schumer’s visit to China, recent weeks have witnessed a series of frequent high-level engagements between China and the US, including the meeting between Chinese Vice President Han Zheng and US Secretary of State Antony Blinken in New York last month and the meeting between Chinese Minister of Foreign Affairs Wang Yi and US National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan in Malta also in September.

The engagement between China and the US fits the interests of the two countries as well as the expectations of the international community. But some observers noted that the Biden administration has not changed its policy of competing with China, and its current adjustments are temporary and tactical. 

They also noted that the US has shown a more positive attitude in words than in moves in recent months for a possible top leaders’ meeting, as it is still creating obstacles to bilateral relations.

The Biden administration is attempting to exploit high-level encounters to shake and erode China’s resolve to resist US sanctions that have no basis in reality. Additionally, it has kept up the pressure on China on the high-tech sector front and on the Taiwan question and the issue of the South China Sea, Lü Xiang, a research fellow at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, told the Global Times. 

On Friday, the US Commerce Department added 42 Chinese companies to a government export control list using “their support for Moscow’s military and defense industrial base” as an excuse. 

According to Lü, current China-US relations are still complicated since bilateral ties have stopped further deteriorating but are still at a low point. “We welcome the US’ positive statements and efforts to mend relations, but their words have become unreliable due to their sanctions against Chinese companies,” said the expert. 

The window of opportunity to normalize US-China ties is still open, and if the Biden administration misses it, they will be plunged into internal “wars” and disarray in the upcoming election period, said Lü. 

Echoing Lü, many experts have also called on the Biden administration to show more sincerity in improving relations with China as the recent high-level engagements not only improve exchanges between the governments but also help resume people-to-people exchanges. 

For example, on October 4, Chinese Ambassador to the US Xie Feng met with a delegation of nearly 30 renowned Chinese and American scholars led by a Chinese think tank and an American think tank, during which Xie noted that think tanks and scholars of the two countries have always played an important role in promoting mutual understanding

It is significant for China and the US to maintain dialogue and exchanges at all levels and in various fields to avoid derailing bilateral relations, and the US needs to take more actions rather than fancy words to truly improve bilateral relations and to help create a friendly environment for higher-level talks, analysts said.