File: 21 March 2022 | President of the People’s Republic of China Xi Jinping meets with President of Russia Vladimir Putin at the official welcoming ceremony in the Grand Kremlin Palace in Moscow.

G20 Summit: America’s strategy in dealing with Russia and China

The G20 summit in India provided an opportunity for Biden to strengthen his efforts to reduce China’s influence. By participating in the summit, which Prime Minister Modi viewed …

The G20 summit in India provided an opportunity for Biden to strengthen his efforts to reduce China’s influence. By participating in the summit, which Prime Minister Modi viewed as a significant prestige asset, Biden subtly conveyed the message that India could be an alternative to China. In this context, it was clear that the new trade route announced at the summit aimed to provide an alternative to China’s Belt and Road Initiative. Biden’s immediate visit to Vietnam after the summit was also a step in his strategy to counter China’s influence in the Indo-Pacific region. However, the absence of Putin and Xi at the summit, and furthermore, the use of language in the final statement that would not disturb Russia, once again highlighted the challenges Biden faces.

China had started retaliating against Western companies through pressure in response to the U.S.’s export restrictions and efforts to prevent critical technology transfers. The Biden administration had been trying to ease the increasing tensions over the past year by sending officials like Blinken and Raimondo to China. Chinese leader Xi, who saw Biden’s efforts to contain and limit China’s influence as a ‘containment’ policy reminiscent of the Cold War, tried to express his dissatisfaction with American policy by not participating in the G20.

Biden, while acknowledging the importance of the summit in the fight against climate change, was aware that it would be difficult to make significant progress in this area without China. Another drawback of the policy to limit China’s economic power is that it makes Russian-Chinese coordination more appealing. Biden is currently busy adjusting the dosage of pressure, as he is concerned that the trade restrictions imposed during a time when China is economically challenged may negatively affect American companies operating there.

While the Biden administration wants to present the summit as a success, the fact that Russia was not directly condemned in the final statement means that Russian leader Putin got what he wanted by not attending. Xi’s decision not to participate in the summit also indicated that both climate change initiatives would weaken and that China would continue to move closer to Russia in the future, creating an important dilemma for Washington.

Biden’s pledge of ‘full support’ to Ukraine prevents him from engaging in any constructive process with Russia. Additionally, the economic struggle against China poses a risk of complicating joint action on climate change. In America’s struggle against these two powers, we observe that it is pushing the limits of both its kinetic capabilities and its economic tools.

The closer cooperation between Russia and China, and America’s difficulty in setting the rules of this game, provide an opportunity for countries like India to adopt a balancing policy and assume a role in global leadership. In these conditions that provide a suitable ground for Modi’s efforts to make his country one of the main actors in global politics, it is possible to say that America has high expectations of countries like India and Vietnam, beyond their capacities and what they can offer.

We can say that a cautious attitude of “getting closer to America but saying no to confrontation with China” has become widespread among other countries that Biden is trying to bring on his side in the struggle against China. Biden’s ability to unite the West in response to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine can be seen as sending a clear message to China on the Taiwan issue. However, as time passes, we see that the Russian occupation is almost normalized and the deterrent effect of the message to China regarding Taiwan is starting to wane.

The likelihood of Ukraine achieving a clear victory over Russia is diminishing, and the international community is beginning to accept this, which also poses a handicap for America’s China policy. While America’s efforts to highlight India at the G20 may be successful to a certain extent, it is safe to say that this will have no impact on either the Ukraine or Taiwan issues. Washington is also reluctant to sever all ties by waging an all-out economic battle against China, and achieving a clear victory over Russia is challenging.

The Biden administration needs to develop a policy that will permanently break the coordination between Russia and China in the coming period. Powers like India, South Korea, Japan, Australia, and others can assist America in its efforts to counter China’s influence, but a more creative strategy is required to gain a clear advantage against both China and Russia. It is not realistic to expect powers like India, which are trying to develop a two-sided balancing policy by also being a part of BRICS, to assume the alternative role to China that America desires. To succeed in both these battles, where Washington is engaged in kinetic combat with Russia and economic combat with China, it needs a concrete strategy to prevent Russian-Chinese rapprochement.

[Yeni Şafak, September 12, 2023]

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