Here Are Opportunities For The U.S. And China To Work Together

In a three-hour conversation meant to quell growing tensions between the United States and China, President Biden and President Xi Jinping discussed their differing priorities and perspectives on Monday ahead of the G20 summit in Bali. The leaders agreed to work together on some transnational challenges.

Biden said after the meeting that the world expects the two countries “to be able to work together.” And the Chinese foreign ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying said on Twitter, “The successes of China and the United States are opportunities, not challenges, for each other.”

Here are some opportunities around trade and supply chains that would be good for both countries to cooperate.

Animal Health and the Food Supply ChainXCN2

One of the areas the two leaders mentioned was food security. Just as researchers in China and the U.S. worked together on the initial response to Covid-19, we would all benefit from broad collaboration on animal health.

The world has suffered extensive losses in food supply chains because of viral infections. Prior to the Covid-19 pandemic, African swine fever appeared in Liaoning Province, China, in 2018 and then spread to the whole country. This highly infectious disease resulted in the culling of millions of pigs, decimating the Chinese herd. A steep decline in pork production and a large jump in prices followed. The virus has since spread to six continents and remains a major concern for the American pork industry.

Similarly, the devastating impact on poultry and egg prices worldwide caused by the highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI) virus – a strain of H1N1 – has driven up turkey prices in the U.S. right before Thanksgiving. The U.S. and China could collaborate to research cures, develop effective vaccines, or share biosafety measures and practices to protect these important food supplies.

On the research side, scientists already know how to work together. It would be an opportunity for the governments to foster more coordination on a global public good.

Improve Access for International Travelers to China

As bad as relations between China and the U.S. have become, the trans-Pacific trade lane continues to be the most important in the world. The U.S. is still a huge market for Chinese produced goods, and China still imports many things from the U.S.

While the countries compete, they are still more interdependent than most people appreciate, whether it is China’s need for American grain, energy, and biotech products, or America’s appetite for microwave ovens, iPhones, computer monitors, and countless other consumer products.

The governments could work together to figure out how to let American and other foreign businesspeople visit factories and suppliers and not be subject to unpredictable detentions. If China wants to maintain its quarantine policy, that’s its choice. But often it’s the fear of getting caught in an unpredictable lockdown that keeps people away.

Guarantee safe passage out of the country in such circumstances and it will help to getting business relations back on track. This is in everybody’s interest.

Logistics and Decarbonization

The U.S. and China already work together at the International Maritime Organization (IMO), which serves as a vehicle for extensive collaboration on the regulation of and decarbonization of marine transport. In keeping with new IMO regulations that come into force on Jan. 1, 2023, the countries could coordinate on the deployment of liquified natural gas (LNG) bunkering infrastructure.

Several of the big global shipping lines have made big bets on LNG as a lower carbon transition fuel to hydrogen or hydrogen derivatives, and China has already shown great interest in building LNG fueled ships and port facilities. The U.S. is now the largest exporter of LNG in the world. There should be some room for extensive cooperation here that is in everyone’s interests.

There’s also perhaps a middle ground the U.S. could help negotiate in regards to maritime trade and public access to the maritime Automatic Identification System (AIS) in China’s coastal waters. AIS is a transponder system that provides location information on ships; the system is maintained by the IMO. It was initially developed to help avoid ship collisions and to support rescue efforts in the event of a maritime disaster. AIS has become a valuable tool to track maritime congestion around ports worldwide and provide more visibility for supply chains.

The Chinese government grew concerned about what the AIS data might reveal and blocked public access in 2021. But more detailed intelligence information is likely available via satellites. For comparison, not even the stringent European General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) restricts the use of AIS. This could be a prime opportunity for a new conversation.

These are some small areas where the countries could cooperate and not rile up the hawks on both sides of the Pacific. Finding areas that can be win-wins could be confidence builders on a road to a more constructive relationship.