At their meeting in Bali in November, the leaders of China and the United States raised hopes that the world’s two superpowers would find ways to prevent their rapidly deteriorating relationship from descending into open conflict.

Yet, as neither side appears willing to compromise on contentious issues, experts warn that Sino-U.S. ties will remain fraught, with the rivalry set to intensify this year: Washington will continue to hunt for ways to isolate Beijing politically and further slow its technological rise, while China is expected to keep pressuring Taiwan, buttress ties with Russia and increase its self-sufficiency.

U.S. President Joe Biden and Chinese leader Xi Jinping’s talks “may have helped stabilize relations by re-energizing bilateral dialogues, but numerous thorny issues persist and there is little indication that either side has the political will to address any of the fundamental frictions in a meaningful way,” said Andrew Scobell, with the United States Institute of Peace's China program.