U.S. President Joe Biden pledges to defend Taiwan against a Chinese attack. Beijing warns of "game-changing and huge risks.” Chinese warplanes fly by the island democracy almost daily, and state media warns American actions could "trigger a war.”

Recent headlines make it seem as if the nuclear-armed powers are hurtling toward conflict. More and more analysts warn that China’s leader, Xi Jinping, is preparing for war sometime in the next few years to seize an island that Beijing has threatened to overrun ever since the Communist Party took power in 1949.

But underneath the surface, signs are increasing that the U.S. and China are starting to climb out of the diplomatic spiral that began with former President Donald Trump’s steel tariffs in March 2018.