US Efforts to Improve Relations with China and Limit Beijing’s Influence

This fall, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer is set to lead a bipartisan group of U.S. senators on a trip to China. The purpose of the visit, similar to previous high-ranking U.S. officials’ trips, is to enhance the relationship between the U.S. and China. These efforts come at a time of increasing tensions between the two economic powerhouses and coincide with U.S. efforts to strengthen ties with Indo-Pacific countries to counter Beijing’s influence.

President Joe Biden’s recent visits to India and Vietnam for the G20 summit emphasize this trend. During his time in Asia, Biden made agreements in science, technology, and supply chain security to deepen U.S. ties with these countries. Although the U.S. claims that its goal is not to contain China, the agreements with India, Vietnam, and other nations could potentially limit China’s global influence.

The U.S. is actively seeking to counter one of China’s key instruments of influence, international loans. At the G20 summit, the U.S. pledged to reform the World Bank and International Monetary Fund to make them more flexible in lending to developing countries for renewable energy, climate mitigation, and critical infrastructure projects. The U.S. also signed agreements with the European Union, Saudi Arabia, and India to improve connectivity between the Middle East, Europe, and Asia through rail and ports, providing an alternative to China’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI).

The BRI, China’s international infrastructure loan program, has faced criticism for leading recipient countries into debt traps. As China’s domestic economy slows down, it may become more challenging for Chinese entities to continue funding large overseas projects. The U.S.-led agreements resulting from the G20 could fill this gap.

The agreements made with India and Vietnam also address concerns related to China. Biden and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi agreed to collaborate on critical and emerging technologies, such as quantum computing and 5G/6G telecommunications, to help India compete with China in the Indo-Pacific region. The U.S.-Vietnam comprehensive strategic partnership aims to expand cooperation across various sectors, including economics, education, and technology.

Furthermore, the U.S. investments in semiconductor assembly, testing, packaging, and the integration of artificial intelligence in Vietnam make the country more attractive to U.S. and Western companies seeking to diversify their supply chains away from China.

These efforts align with existing Western economic initiatives to compete with the BRI, including U.S. trade pacts, the EU’s Global Gateway, and the G7’s Partnership for Global Infrastructure and Investment. Overall, they reflect the U.S.’s desire to improve relations with China while simultaneously limiting its influence in the global arena.