Sanctions, warnings, accusations. Headlines of late have told of the ratcheting up of competition between China and the United States. The visit to China of the highest-ranking Biden official is a chance to step off the treadmill. Deputy Secretary of State Wendy Sherman, Washington's No. 2 diplomat, is the bearer of a familiar message to Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi and Vice- Foreign Minister Xie Feng: that the US welcomes stiff and sustained competition with China, but with the rider that rules must apply in the arena. The US describes its mission as wanting to install guard rails to responsibly manage the relationship. Beijing's long-held stance is that China will protect its security, sovereignty and development interests and will demand that the US stop interfering in its internal affairs. Guard rails cannot be a means to fence in China, the nationalist Global Times said in an editorial last week.
Both sides must inject freshness into this predictable script which offers low returns. The Tianjin meetings must do more than soothe the sting of Alaska where top officials squared off in March. Since then, the ride has hit pothole after pothole. The US announced sanctions on Chinese officials in Hong Kong and sounded a warning to US companies operating in the city. The US, along with its allies, also accused China's state-backed actors of launching malicious cyber attacks. Beijing issued counter sanctions and accused the Central Intelligence Agency of running a cyber offensive against Chinese entities.