Andy Murray fell at the first hurdle of the China Open as the British veteran lost to Australia's Alex de Minaur 6-3, 5-7, 7-6 (6) here on Thursday.
The comity of nations has been kept guessing over what actually transpired through the ether, but Thursday’s telephone interaction between Joe Biden and Xi Jinping was as diplomatic as it could be. Sure, the Presidents of the United States of America and the People’s Republic of China dwelt on issues close to the bone.
It thus comes about that Biden underlined the need for a “free and open” Pacific and Xi’s caveat suggested that a “confrontation would be a disaster for both nations”. But America’s message regarding the choppy waters of the Pacific has been conveyed despite China’s attempt to establish mastery over the sea.
While the US President has offered to cooperate on “global priorities of mutual interest”, President Biden has warned his counterpart in Beijing that its aggressive policies abroad (an allusion to the border kerfuffle with India) and human rights violations at home (a reference to the persecution of Uighurs in Xinjiang province) were decidedly unacceptable.
To that was added China’s “coercive and unfair economic practices, the crackdown and expansionist designs in its protectorate of Hong Kong”, and “increasingly assertive actions in the region”, including Taiwan. It is a measure of the importance of the conversation over the telephone that it continued for two hours and the two leaders also discussed the “shared challenges of global health in the context of the pandemic, climate change, and preventing the proliferation of weapons”.
The interaction quite obviously transcended diplomatic courtesies. Xi was emphatic that a “confrontation would lead to disaster and the two nations must re-establish the means to avoid misjudgments”.
The Chinese President followed a hardline stance regarding the areas of international contestation, primarily Taiwan, Xinjiang and Hong Kong, areas that are chronically in geopolitical ferment though Xinjiang intrinsically represents the ethnic cauldron.
Xi is reported to have told Biden that the three storm-centres represented “sovereignty and territorial integrity” and hoped that the United State would approach the issues at stake cautiously. The telephone interaction comes after the US President’s talks with leaders of his key allies in the Indo-Pacific ~ Australia, Japan, South Korea and India.
Biden is expected to follow the Trump administration’s confrontational policies regarding China’s territorial claims in Asia, defending Taiwan’s independence and cracking down on China’s cybertheft and hacking. Going by the briefing of the US administration, the tariffs that Trump had imposed on China’s exports to America would continue.
No less critical is Biden’s announcement that the Pentagon has established a task force to furnish recommendations to address the challenge posed by China. “It will require a whole-of-government effort, bipartisan cooperation in Congress, and strong alliances and partnerships. That’s how we’ll meet the China challenge”. President Biden has outlined the matrix; it remains for President Xi to respond. On Thursday, both leaders agreed to disagree.