Last December, Politico summarized
Tensions between Beijing and Washington have been steadily increasing for years. Some of the competition has been plain to see: New Chinese aircraft carriers, fifth-generation fighter planes and airstrips in the South China Sea that are facing off against U.S. megabases in places like Guam and deepening military partnerships with Australia and Taiwan.
But other aspects of China’s quest for power are much more subtle. Beijing is also playing a quieter game, using non-military means to propel its push for influence and dominance across the Indo-Pacific and beyond.
Talk to the China watchers in Washington and they’ll say these moves pose a trickier but no less belligerent set of challenges to the U.S. and its allies than China’s overt military buildup — whether it’s China’s deputizing commercial fishing ships to act as extensions of its Navy, it’s pumping money into private tech firms building drones and semiconductors for export across the globe, or it’s allowing government censors to dip into social media algorithms used by American teenagers. These are all part of a wider strategy to spread Chinese influence by marrying the military and commercial aspects of Chinese power, and which poses startling new threats to the United States.
And so in the presidential press conference of August 28, 2023, NBC News White House correspondent Kelly O'Donnell asked press secretary Jean-Pierre
On China, there are a lot of different tension points but one of these has been- we've been reminded of the fact that China has retained ownership of all the pandas at the zoo for the United States, including the Smithsonian National Zoo. And, uh, is there any chance the President is going to ask President Xi to let the pandas stay?
this was not where i was expecting this question to go pic.twitter.com/XXpnkkkwNx— Aaron Rupar (@atrupar) August 28, 2023
Next week, Ms. O'Donnell may ask about Tiktok; Chinese hackers breaching public and private networks across the world; malware inserted by mainland China into power grid networks, communications systems, and water supplies in the USA; Beijing's threat to Taiwan; or the extensive build-up of the Chinese military. However, more likely, it will be "is there any chance the President is going to ask President Xi to free the Uyghurs who are in detention camps in Xinjiang. or at least free the pandas?"