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The virtual summit between President Joe Biden and Chinese ruler Xi Jinping, scheduled for Monday evening Washington time, will score a big win—for China.
The two leaders have not met face-to-face since Biden took office. Instead, they have held two long phone calls, on February 10 and September 9. Not much is publicly known about either conversation although it is apparent that neither conversation accomplished much from America’s point of view.
Not much will be accomplished Monday either, at least according to the Biden administration. “This is not about seeking specific deliverables or outcomes,” said one “White House official” to CNBC. “This is about setting the terms of an effective competition where we are in the position to defend our values and interests and those of our allies and partners.”
After decades of intense American engagement of China, the White House comments sound unambitious.
Biden, hoping to fix boundaries, is setting a low bar for success. “We believe when such terms—or guardrails—are established, we can sustain a vigorous competition,” the official explained.
There are two fundamental misconceptions embedded in these Biden administration statements. First, the U.S. is not engaged in a “competition” with China. Second, talking is not the best way, at this point, in “guardrailing” the relationsh …

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