Biden, Xi taking lumps for allies’ bad behavior – Asia Times

Biden, Xi taking lumps for allies' bad behavior - Asia Times

The leaders of the country’s two major forces are divided by several things, but one thing is clear: each of their president has gotten himself into supporting a neighbor whose causes are regularly committing what many consider to be war crimes.

Every leader has used risks to try to persuade the alliance to act more effectively. So much, neither Joe Biden nor Xi Jinping has been effective.

Some readers may assume that America’s help for Israel’s occupation of Gaza is a conflict between China’s and America’s, particularly since China is more pleased with the consequences of Russia’s war than America is with Israel’s.

But both Israel and Russia are regularly killing civilians and making risks that may cause their conflicts to get worse. In each case, the target’s activities are putting the power in an uncomfortable place.

There are distinctions. Prior to May 9, President Biden ordered that those arms shipments been stopped, despite China’s apparent lack of shipment of arms to Russia. America was supplying those weapons to Israel.

Israel, of course, invaded Gaza in retaliation for the dangerous and hostage- taking attack on it on October 7&nbsp, last year by the Hamas defense organization that has governed Gaza since 2007, an attack that formed part of Hamas’s aggressive campaign to end Israel’s occupation of what Hamas sees as Israeli territories since 1967 – and, however, to finish Israel’s very existence.

On the other hand, Russia invaded Ukraine in 2022 with a terrible and unwarranted attack, having recently seized the county of Crimea in 2014 – all aimed at reversing Ukraine’s freedom, which had been agreed and negotiated with Russia itself in 1991.

China and Russia had signed a joint declaration only 18 weeks prior to the invasion that said the two countries had a strategic relationship with” no limits” attached to its future potential.

The rights and wrongs of these issues are n’t really what the United States and China have in common. What they do share in common is that each is trying to exert leverage over its alliance in a way that serves its own passions and reputation, idealizing, in the case of America, in order to forbid future civilian deaths in Gaza, in China in order to stop Russia from threatening to employ nuclear weapons and, idealically, to urge it to start discussions over a peace settlement with Ukraine ( though how deeply China desires this is open to question ).

What should President Biden and President Xi do if their threats are ignored by Israel and Russia, respectively? What, in other words, can the world’s two most powerful countries do if their bluff is called?

The good news for Joe Biden is that he has a lot of direct and powerful influence over Israel: US arms deliveries to Israel cost almost US$ 4 billion annually.

Despite that, Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and some of the extremist parties in his government responded defiantly to Biden’s threat to halt these arms supplies, saying they could stand and fight alone.

Since the Gaza war broke out, US President Joe Biden and his Israeli counterpart Benjamin Netanyahu have n’t always seen eye to eye. Image: Handout / GPO

That is undoubtedly true, in the short term. The Israeli military already has the resources and weapons necessary to invade Rafah, which it claims is the last stronghold of Hamas’s military, in southern Gaza.

Israel also requires American assistance in the longer run, having been a State of Israel since 1948, for both military and diplomatic support in its relations with its Arab neighbors and its conflict with Iran, the state that finances and supplies Israel and Israel’s other terrorist organization, Hezbollah, in Lebanon.

Therefore, both sides must battle nerves and willpower in the face-off between Biden and Netanyahu. Prime Minister Netanyahu cannot afford to lose the support of the United States, but he may choose to wager that it wo n’t be withdrawn for a while.

The bad news for Biden is that almost anything he does in the year of the American presidential election could hurt his chances: if he backs down, Donald Trump will accuse him of being weak, and if he withholds support for Israel, Trump and pro-Israel Democrats will criticize him for doing so.

Meanwhile, pro-Palestine demonstrations on university campuses pose two risks: one, that left-leaning Democratic voters may turn away from him, and that, if disorder develops ( as it did with anti-Vietnam War demonstrations in 1968 ), an image of weakness and loss of control could be disastrous in November’s election.

However, given the range of negative effects, President Biden’s best course of action would be to use his full influence over Israel: any presidential candidate needs to appear strong, and he cannot afford to lose any of his own Democratic Party voters.

No candidate ever looks strong, but making threats and then withdrawing them would be unquestionable evidence of both weakness and indecisistance.

This also fits with a diplomatic imperative: if America is ever to stabilize the situation in the Middle East it needs the support of Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Qatar and the Gulf States, and if he backs down on Israel’s invasion of Rafah, that support will be lost or greatly diluted. The involvement of those Arab states will be necessary if Gaza is to be rebuilt and policed after the war is over.

President Xi’s challenge is more ambiguous than Biden’s. China does not want to be associated with threats of the use of nuclear weapons, even though it welcomes any disruption to Western leadership that might be brought about by Russia’s actions, which is why it has provided Russia with both diplomatic and commercial support.

Xi’s challenge – an unhinged Vladimir Putin. Photo: The Kremlin

China is trying to portray itself as a peacemaker and stabilizer in some ways, which is why, in part, because this is how the more violent its Russian ally becomes, the less convincing this stance will be in international diplomacy.

However, it is also because China wants to maintain the notion that it can essentially annex Taiwan peacefully or at least without a quick conflict, which is against the grain of superpower theory.

The positive aspect of Xi’s position is that he does n’t have to face election issues and can view Russia’s conflict more indifferenceably than Biden can. The bad news, however, is that his leverage over Russia is quite limited.

Beyond threats, Xi could only actually sway Vladimir Putin by stifling trade between Russia and China, perhaps especially with regards to the need for higher-tech goods for the Russian defense industry. But that would make China look rather like America, using trade as a tool of containment.

It is quite tough being a superpower.

Formerly editor- in- chief of The Economist, Bill Emmott is currently chairman of the&nbsp, Japan Society of the UK, the&nbsp, International Institute for Strategic Studies&nbsp, and the&nbsp, International Trade Institute.

First published on his Substack, Bill Emmott’s Global View, this is the English original of an article previously published in Italian by La Stampa.