The New Global Chessmaster, Xi of China

David Reavill
6 min readNov 16, 2023
President Biden is greeting President Xi of China.

Chess is a magnificent game, couched in the metaphor of power and intrigue. Its pieces are named after medieval persons of power: knights, Queens, and Kings. The game can be exhilarating to play when you win. But it’s excruciating when you’re losing. Unlike other board games, Chess is renowned for taking hours and hours to complete a game. It’s especially true when you find yourself in the hands of an absolute master. Your frustration builds as move after move is blocked by a player at the top of their game.

This week, the master of Global Chess came to San Francisco to meet his chief adversary. Xi Jinping, President of the People’s Republic of China, was meeting Joe Biden, President of the United States. President Biden pointed out that it has been “a year and a day” since the two met face to face. You can bet that the American President has marked well every move of the man from China. Since Biden became the leader of the US, it has been Xi who has been his nemesis, blocking and besting each move of the Americans.

US Representatives Blinken and Sullivan meet Chinese Representatives Yang and Wang in Alaska.

Looking back over the past nearly three years, we can see how this match between Biden and Xi has been masterfully played by this representative of the “Middle Kingdom.” The “match” between America and China began less than two months after the inauguration of President Biden. And as is often the case in great contests, each President’s seconds open the match. Representing our side was Secretary of State Antony Blinken and National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan; representing China were Chinese Director of the Office of the Central Commission for Foreign Affairs Yang Jiechi and Foreign Minister Wang Yi.

The Biden Administration had put China on notice that these would be
“tough” discussions designed to put China in its place. But that sentiment reached the diplomats across the Pacific because they came loaded for bear. The opening comments by Blinken and Sullivan were meant to show the dominant position of the US in the global community. Director Yang came back with perhaps the most blunt, direct retort ever by a Chinese diplomat to the United States:

“So we believe that it is important for the United States to change its own image and to stop advancing its own democracy in the rest of the world. Many people within the United States actually have little confidence in the democracy of the United States, and they have various views regarding the government of the United States.”

It was completely unexpected and caught the Americans off guard. Most pundits gave the opening round to the aggressive, assertive Chinese for their new “no holds barred” approach.

It was an all-new strategy by Chess Master Xi. Gone were the days when the reticent Chinese came to sell their wares to the Americans. It was a new China that could match the US toe to toe.

The Ukraine — Russia War.

The second round of this grand Chess Match must have been equally as unexpected by the Americans. Less than a year later, on February 24, 2022, Russia invaded Ukraine. Perceived by the Americans as a bilateral conflict between the two Eastern European countries, the Biden Administration devised a cunning strategy aimed at degrading the Russian Economy. With the European Union, Biden began a series of sanctions to deny Russia’s ability to sell its goods to the West. Biden cut off all oil imports from Russia to the US and later denied Russian Banks access to the SWIFT International Settlements System.

The Society of Worldwide Interbank Financial Telecommunications (SWIFT).

Russia was now bereft of its primary market for oil and gas, and worse, it had no way to receive payments for sales in the rest of the world (SWIFT). In the words of Ursula von der Leyen, President of the European Commission, these moves would reduce the Russian economy to “tatters.”

Indeed, had the War in Ukraine remained the bilateral conflict that the Biden Administration envisaged, the EU/US strategy would likely have succeeded. But in stepped the Chess Master. Completely unexpected, President Xi began purchasing Russian oil and gas, supporting the Russians when they were desperate for sales. Other countries, principally India, would follow the Chinese in purchasing Russian oil, and a new block of nations, BRICS, would begin to come together.

Moreover, China had its system for International transactions, the CIPS System, which could replace SWIFT. You may recall that SWIFT, the Society for Worldwide Interbank Financial Telecommunications, is a cooperative system whereby the global banking system can facilitate cross-border financial transactions, almost all exchanged in US Dollars. SWIFT is one of the essential pillars upon which the Dollar’s Reserve Status rests.

Chinese Oil Tanker.

So Round #2 of the Great Global Chess Match went to President Xi, as his decision to purchase Russian Oil and Gas rescued the Russian Economy while blunting the US strategy of economic blockade. As events unfolded, the elimination of inexpensive Russian oil, which at the time represented nearly 10% of the US daily usage, ignited the worst case of US inflation in 40 years.

Finally, Xi’s move to develop BRICS may be his lasting legacy. BRICS, the acronym that stands for Brazil, Russia, India, China, and South Africa, was a modest organization with little reach or influence outside those four principal countries. But under the guidance of President Xi, as well as Presidents Modi of India and Putin of Russia, BRICS has become the representative of the growing Global South.

BRICS Leaders Putin of Russia, Xi of China, and Modi of India.

Sometimes, in Chess, it’s impossible to determine whether the positive advance of one side achieves a winning move or the mistaken move by the opposition. That’s the case with the rise of BRICS and the Global South.

Round #3 of this Global Chess Match began with the Biden Administration’s (and the European Union’s) move to impose sanctions, impound assets, deny SWIFT access, and cut off imports from Russia. Again, it is likely that the Biden Administration saw this in strictly bilateral terms. To use a Bidenism: “It’s just between Putin and me…”

But it wasn’t just a mano a mano struggle that the US President likes to embellish. The rest of the world was watching, and judging from their reaction, they didn’t much care for the high-handed moves by the Collective West. After all, if sanctions, trade embargoes, and impounds could be used against Russia, they could just as quickly be used against any nation.

And just like that, trust in the United States to act as a neutral third party was lost. Countries like Saudi Arabia, Iran, and much of the Middle East have now started looking for a safe haven, an organization that would uphold their interests. BRICS, led by China and Russia, has become that organization.


Although this move is incomplete, China and the BRICS Nations have the upper hand.

Chess is a game that can be excruciatingly slow to develop, especially if you’re losing. If you find yourself at the hands of a true Master, you can sometimes see that your path to victory is gone. You have wasted your assets in gambits that all went wrong. But the game continues until the King is captured. You must play on until the end.

On Wednesday, one could see that President Biden’s heart was no longer in the match. His opening remarks were barely 2 minutes long, with a mere furtive comment about “Climate Change” and the drug Fentanyl — hardly the stirring words of a national leader with a vision for the future.

President Xi of China across from President Biden of the United States.

Across the table from Biden sat a new Global Chess Master, Xi of China.

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David Reavill

David Reavill writer + finance +iconoclast + hiker + Pennsylvania #valueside daily podcast + medium + meditate