as originally featured in The Hill
There’s no mistaking that tensions between the United States and China are at an all-time high and U.S. perception of China is very low. Now is the time to invest in diplomatic discussions and this investment in goodwill by both sides must take place through a credible third party. Holding a summit of senior U.S. and Chinese officials in the United Arab Emirates makes perfect sense for such a meeting.
The UAE is home to the Al Dhafra Air Base — home to the 380th Air Expeditionary Wing — and simultaneously, China is the UAE’s largest non-oil trading partner. Additionally, later this year the United Nations’ annual climate change conference, COP 28, will take place in Dubai, demonstrating the UAE’s seriousness when it comes to tackling this long-term policy challenge wherein the United States and China have large roles to play and would both be best served by working together to confront this critical issue.
Such a summit must be led by a combination of legislative leaders, executive branch officials and elder statesmen. By bringing together this combination of individuals it ensures that the Congress and the Biden administration are on the same page, while the perspective of elder statesmen helps lend institutional memory to such a meeting.
Namely, the chair and ranking member of the Senate Foreign Relations and House Foreign Affairs committees should take the lead in representing Congress’ views at this summit, while the Biden administration would be well-advised in sending U.S. Secretary of Commerce Gina Raimondo, alongside the chair and CEO of the U.S. International Development Finance Corporation, Scott Nathan. Lastly, two former U.S. ambassadors to China should be present, such as former ambassadors Jon Huntsman and Gary Locke or former ambassadors Max Baucus and Terry Branstad.
At this summit, topics of discussion should include tensions in the South China Sea, the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), climate change, and the war in Ukraine. Ultimately, these talks will serve to develop a baseline of understanding where there are areas of overlap in U.S. and Chinese interests.
If this summit goes well, there should be a follow-up with more senior officials present, namely President Biden and Secretary of State Antony Blinken, and their Chinese counterparts President Xi and Minister Qin Gang. This summit will hopefully allow for trust to slowly but surely be rebuilt in light of recent tensions over espionage allegations with these recent balloons, tensions in the South China Sea and Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
As the two largest economies in the world, it is vitally important that channels of communication be kept open between the United States and China. The stakes are too high for any sort of misunderstanding between the two superpowers, especially as the Biden administration has its hands full in helping the Ukrainian people reclaim their country from Vladimir Putin’s aggression. Hopefully, effective US-Chinese diplomacy during this year’s United Nations climate change conference will reduce those tensions soon.
J.P. Carroll is a senior fellow for national security and inclusive governance at the Joseph Rainey Center for Public Policy. Follow him on Twitter @JPCarrollDC1.