Links for Tuesday, August 18, 2020

Notable China news from around the web.

WHAT WE’RE READING:

More important China news and analysis from around the web:

“Beijing is dialing down its belligerence to avoid provocative moves that might give President Trump more opportunities to attack ahead of the November election,” the New York Times writes:

One after another, top Chinese diplomats have called for “peaceful coexistence” with the United States, forgoing their previous assertions that Beijing’s authoritarian system is superior. Hawkish scholars are now emphasizing prospects for defusing tensions, instead of urging China to challenge American military might. Journalists at state-run news outlets are limiting their direct attacks on President Trump, under instructions to take a more conciliatory approach.

There are several ways that this change could be read. A few possibilities (there could be others):

  • It is a superficial change, intended to “wait and see” whether Trump wins reelection, and if he does not, making it easier to attempt a “reset” or at least a recalibration with a Biden administration.
  • Someone convinced Xi Jinping that letting nationalism get too out of hand could increase the risk of the worst-case outcomes, including war with the U.S. We recommend a Foreign Affairs article by Kevin Rudd, or an interview with Rudd on Australian radio, to provide clarity on why this is a distinct possibility in a period of heightened tension.

For more on the broader context of worsening U.S.-China relations, and the questions both sides would have to answer to change the long-term trend, see Jeffrey Bader of the Brookings Institution: Avoiding a new Cold War between the U.S. and China.

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