There were a series of high-profile Biden Administration officials traveling to China over the last month. In mid-June, Secretary of State Antony Blinken traveled to Beijing for meetings with President Xi Jinping, Director of the CCP Central Foreign Affairs Office Wang Yi, and State Councilor and Foreign Minister Qin Gang. Blinken’s visit, delayed after the Chinese spy balloon episode earlier this year, came at a point of high tension and amid increasing worries by other countries in the Indo-Pacific region that the United States and China have entered into a new Cold War. Beyond the substance of the high-level discussions, the trip carried great significance as Secretary Blinken became the first top U.S. diplomat to visit China in five years. Blinken also meet with Yi on the margins of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) gathering of foreign ministers in Jakarta, Indonesia on July 13—in what was describes as “candid and constructive” talks they discussed a range of issues including fentanyl, hacking and Beijing’s military activities.
Weeks after Blinken’s visit, Secretary Yellen also traveled to China for high-level consultations. Yellen’s primary goals were to meet the new team of senior Chinese economic officials and to ease what have been increasingly rising tensions. While Yellen used softer language for America’s economic strategy toward China, she did not shy away from criticizing Chinese treatment of U.S. companies, specifically calling out Beijing stating she’s “been particularly troubled by punitive actions that have been taken against U.S. firms in recent months.” There were no new policies announced by the U.S. or China during the visit and one can foresee further conflicts over trade, investment, and technology between the world largest economies. John Kerry, the Special Presidential Envoy for Climate and former Secretary of State, is scheduled to visit China July 16-18 and there will be additional opportunities for high-level engagement over the coming months to cool tensions and correct course on what is, arguably, the world’s most important bi-lateral relationship as Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo is likely to visit China by year’s end and President Xi is expected to attend the APEC Summit in San Franscisco, CA in November. Nevertheless, there is a great deal of mistrust on each side and, while a visit of this nature opens the door to to increase the frequency and broaden the scope of high-level dialogues, it is unlikely to change the intensely competitive nature of U.S.-China relations. The level of tension in the relationship is significant, many members of Congress believe that China poses an existential threat to the United States and China-based hackers recently gained access to the emails of a number of senior officials, further complicating the relationship.
Surpreme Court Term Ends, Public Confidence in the Court at a Historic Low
The United States Supreme Court wrapped up its most recent term on June 30 and released a number of high-profile decisions in the closing days. In Students for Fair Admissions, Inc. v. President and Fellows of Harvard College, and Students for Fair Admissions, Inc. v. University of North Carolina , the justices ruled, in a 6-3 decision, that the admissions programs used by the University of North Carolina and Harvard violate the Constitution’s equal protection clause, which bars racial discrimination by government entities. This ruling effectively will end the use of affirmative action in college admissions. The Court also took on the issue of religious liberty and LGBTQ+ rights in 303 Creative LLC v. Elenis, which involved a website designer who challenged a Colorado law prohibiting businesses from discriminating against LGBTQ+ customers. A six-justice majority agreed that Colorado cannot enforce a state anti-discrimination law against the business who does not want to create wedding websites for same-sex couples. The Supreme Court rejected a controversial Trump-backed election law theory, called the independent state legislature theory, in Moore v. Harper. President Biden’s student loan forgiveness program was also struck down by the Supreme Court in a 6-3 ruling in Biden v. Nebraska. Increasingly, the American public no longer believes the Supreme Court is impartial and Americans’ confidence in the court has dropped sharply over the past year.