China expects US to ease some restrictions on exchanges under Joe Biden, military adviser says

Catherine Wong
·4-min read

China is expecting the United States to ease some restrictions on exchanges between the two countries when US president-elect Joe Biden takes office as part of efforts to repair the relationship, according to a Chinese military adviser.

That could include issuing more student visas for Chinese in the US and reopening consulates closed under President Donald Trump, said Yao Yunzhu, a senior adviser with the official China Association of Military Science.

Speaking on the sidelines of the Beijing Xiangshan Forum on Tuesday, Yao said the new US administration may also end moves like recent raids on Chinese ships and planes arriving in the US where crew have reportedly been questioned about their Communist Party membership.

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“We hope the new US government will remove restrictions on people-to-people exchanges ... restrictions on such exchanges damage the foundations of China-US relations,” she said.

A Biden presidency could be an opportunity to improve relations, Yao said.

“He has a much more professional foreign policy and defence team, which means it will be easier to communicate and reach consensus,” Yao said. “Biden values multilateralism – China has also been advocating multilateralism. We could therefore expand cooperation under a multilateral framework, such as on climate change, the pandemic, and North Korea.”

Biden’s election victory has given hope to observers that the damaged ties of the world’s two biggest economies could at least be partially rebuilt, with the incoming US administration expected to be more predictable and possibly more accommodating of China than it has been under Trump.

Biden has already begun announcing his cabinet picks, including Antony Blinken as US secretary of state – his long-time adviser who is seen by analysts as a moderate and someone Beijing could work with.

Jia Qingguo, an international relations professor at Peking University, said earlier that Blinken was also likely to bring Washington back to its post-war international strategy of advancing American interests by maintaining a world order that is favourable to the US – which would mean a more predictable China policy than under Trump.

Antony Blinken is the nominee for the secretary of state post. Photo: Reuters
Antony Blinken is the nominee for the secretary of state post. Photo: Reuters

Addressing the two-day security forum in Beijing on Tuesday, Ezra Vogel, professor emeritus at Harvard University, said the two countries should seize the opportunity to resume dialogue, from the top leaders to the working level, and that the new US administration should show more goodwill to China.

“We should give more recognition to Chinese constructive efforts around the world,” he said, citing Beijing’s efforts on climate change, infrastructure projects in Africa, and to set up the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank.

Vogel also called on Beijing to provide equal treatment to foreign companies as a way to improve American perceptions of China.

This is a relationship that should not be divided into two solid blocs like during the Cold War. We are going to have to cooperate

Joseph Nye

His views were shared by Joseph Nye, former dean of Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government.

Nye said a Biden administration was likely to take a different approach from Trump, with more focus on issues like human rights, but the two countries could still cooperate despite their rivalry.

“This is a relationship that should not be divided into two solid blocs like during the Cold War. We are going to have to cooperate,” he said at the forum on Wednesday. “I would suggest they [Biden and Chinese President Xi Jinping] set up a procedure for constant high-level contacts – frequent summits. Because I think if they are going to manage this relationship, it’s going to take much better communication at the top level than we’ve seen in the recent years.”

US lawmakers urged to put ‘reciprocity’ at heart of China relationship

China should also show more initiative to improve relations with the US under Biden, according to Alexander Lukin, an international relations expert at the MGIMO University in Moscow.

“President Biden may be more accommodating,” he told the forum. “It’s very important for China because a lot will depend on China’s policy and approach.”

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