On Sunday, a high-profile delegation of US bipartisan lawmakers, spearheaded by Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, extended its Shanghai visit. Experts interpret this move as the US “testing the waters” with respect to China’s stance on pressing concerns like fentanyl and equitable treatment for American companies operating within China. Notably, there’s a growing call among experts for the US to be more genuine in its initiatives to bolster relations, rather than merely making strategic shifts to gauge China’s responses.
This visit to Shanghai marks the inaugural phase of a broader three-country voyage across East Asia, with forthcoming visits to South Korea and Japan. The delegation’s arrival in Shanghai on Saturday was met with an audience with Chen Jining, the secretary of the Shanghai Municipal Committee of the Communist Party of China. During this discussion, Chen emphasized the global significance of China-US ties, underscoring that robust and steady bilateral relations can foster benefits not just for the two nations but also for the broader global community.
In his dialogue with Chen, Schumer articulated America’s readiness to engage in healthy competition with China but without seeking any confrontational stance. However, he took the opportunity to highlight the fentanyl crisis back in the US, pointing fingers at some Chinese enterprises for escalating this crisis. Schumer also emphasized the pivotal nature of reciprocal relations, emphasizing that American businesses should be allowed the same freedom to operate in China as Chinese firms experience in the US.
These assertions by Schumer were met with counterarguments from Li Yong, a prominent researcher at the China Association of International Trade. Li emphasized that China has already undertaken numerous proactive measures to address the fentanyl issue and emphasized that the US should acknowledge these significant strides. On the topic of the fentanyl crisis, Li clarified that while the issue is indeed of grave concern in the US, drawing direct links to China is unjustified. In his view, the US government’s stance seems more inclined towards tainting China’s image rather than addressing the problem at its roots.
In the context of American firms like Micron Technology operating within China, Li emphasized that China has always approached such matters in alignment with its legal framework. While Schumer alluded to concerns with Micron, he overlooked mentioning that the US has recently added 42 Chinese entities to its export control list. This act, according to Li, hints at the US’s own bias, with limited consideration for the principle of fair treatment for Chinese businesses.
Chen, during the meeting, reiterated China’s openness to American companies, highlighting Shanghai as a potential hub for deeper business integration. He emphasized China’s commitment to fostering a top-tier, market-driven, law-abiding, and globally integrated business ecosystem. This environment, in Chen’s vision, would be conducive to mutual growth through collaborative endeavors.
Wang Wei, a researcher at the Institute of American Studies of the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, provided insights to the Global Times. He inferred that Schumer’s decision to raise longstanding issues during his dialogue with senior Chinese authorities was a strategic move to “test the waters”. According to Wang, the key concerns underscored by Schumer, particularly fentanyl and fair business practices, resonate strongly with the American electorate. Hence, raising these concerns could potentially influence political dynamics in the run-up to the forthcoming presidential election. Additionally, Wang believes that revisiting previously discussed topics might not impede future engagements.
However, it’s important to underscore the symbolism of this visit. This congressional delegation’s journey to China is the first in nearly four years, signaling its symbolic weight. Yet, Wang notes that a solitary visit isn’t the panacea to the myriad challenges that have piled up between the two nations over the years.
Recent times have seen a spurt in high-level interactions between the US and China. Yet, some experts caution that Schumer’s visit, although aligned with the Biden administration’s recent tactical shifts, doesn’t necessarily indicate a transformation in the essence of the US’s China policy. Critics argue that while the US appears to be ramping up efforts to bridge communication gaps with China, in essence, containment strategies against China persist.
Li refutes this perception, asserting that China has consistently been responsive to concerns raised by the US. In contrast, according to Li, the US has often overlooked the issues highlighted by the Chinese side during official engagements. Despite this, China remains receptive to open communication channels.
In conclusion, while the recent visit by the US delegation to Shanghai reflects a positive gesture towards enhanced bilateral relations, analysts suggest that the US needs to transition from mere symbolic actions to genuine efforts to foster improved ties with China.