Building the floor: On the U.S.-China summit meeting, lessons for India

Moves by the U.S. and China to stabilise their rocky relations hold lessons for India

A longer term concern — and one that underlines the limits of this modest stabilisation — is a basic point of difference in how they see the future of their relations. As Mr. Xi put it, “the number one question” was whether they were “adversaries or partners”. He criticised U.S. framing of the relationship as being fundamentally competitive, saying it would lead to “misinformed policy making, misguided actions, and unwanted results”, and asked it to “refrain from flip-flopping, … and crossing the lines” on issues including Taiwan and export controls. Mr. Biden, however, “emphasised that the U.S. and China are in competition” and described the immediate challenge as how to “manage it responsibly”. These differences aside, one crucial point of agreement is the apparent realisation that high-level engagement and open channels are key in preventing competition from sliding into conflict. This offers clear lessons to the India-China relationship, as the crisis along the Line of Actual Control enters its fourth winter. Dialogue in and of itself is not a concession, and as the U.S. and China have realised, building a floor, when ties between major powers are at the risk of free fall, is the first step.