It’s been nearly five months since Secretary Antony Blinken abruptly canceled a planned diplomatic trip to China after the Beijing spy balloon incident cooled the relationship between the US and the People’s Republic of China. Now the visit is on for June 18, and as the Biden State Department is in the habit of doing, Blinken will enter the discussions from a position of weakness. The stated purpose is to repair the rift in US-China relations which have progressively gone South under Biden’s foreign policies and Blinken’s leadership. Why is Blinken going to Beijing, taking the first steps to repair relations? The People’s Republic of China’s (PRC) aggressive, threatening behavior toward the US and its neighbors and the Biden administration’s inability to persuade them to stop has caused tense interactions.
State Department Explains Purpose of Blinken Going to Beijing
The US State Department issued a press statement on June 14 describing the purpose of Secretary Blinken’s diplomatic outreach to China:
“While in Beijing, Secretary Blinken will meet with senior PRC officials where he will discuss the importance of maintaining open lines of communication to responsibly manage the U.S.-PRC relationship. He will also raise bilateral issues of concern, global and regional matters, and potential cooperation on shared transnational challenges.”
The purpose is aspirational, not substantive, since in previous encounters, China has used the meetings as an opportunity for theater on the international stage, scolding the US for interfering in the Communist Chinese Party’s (CCP) internal affairs. President Xi Jinping’s government officials got their messages sent to a target audience. Whatever the US brought to the table as concerns were lost to history.
At his regular press briefing, Foreign Ministry spokesperson Wang Wenbin made China’s view of talks with the US very evident. When the Japanese news service Kyodo News asked what China’s attitude was on dialogues with the US, Wang’s unabashed response was, “The important thing is that communication should not be carried out for the sake of communication, still less saying one thing but doing the opposite. The US needs to stop interfering in China’s internal affairs and stop harming China’s interests.” And when it comes to being hoisted on your own petard, or words in this case, Blinken is guilty. During the same briefing, China News Service, the propaganda arm of the CCP, asked what the spokesperson thought of Blinken’s comment during a press conference with the foreign minister of Saudi Arabia that “we’re not asking anyone to choose between the US and China.” Wang leaped on that comment with all fours. “We hope that US diplomatic missions across the globe will act on this commitment he made,” the spokesperson affirmed.
So, the US diplomatic mission heading to Beijing has already established that US foreign policy is to not persuade non-aligned nations of the value of liberty, free speech, religious freedom, free and open markets for fair trade competition, the importance of protecting intellectual property, the importance of avoiding financial debt traps, and the rights of all nations to pursue their sovereign destinies. All of which China demonstrably and adamantly opposes. Of course, America wants countries to choose between the US and China. We want allies, partners, friends, and undecided nations to choose America. We want them to choose the US for trade, defense alliances, to help resolving international disputes, and to help build up underdeveloped countries. To suggest something to the contrary is patently idiotic. Why have a state department if the US doesn’t believe freedom is better than tyranny?
But Why Is Blinken Really Going to China?
To a more important point regarding Blinken’s visit. Why is it incumbent on the US to make the outreach initiative? China is not the offended nation. How much more odious must Beijing be within the community of nations before US foreign policy pushes back? “What more do they have to do. They’re harassing our planes. They’re harassing our ships in international waters. They’ve already violated our sovereignty with a spy balloon,” Representative Mike Waltz told Fox Business anchor Maria Bartiromo. Making a point similar to the CCP spokesperson, Waltz said, “This administration is desperate for diplomacy for diplomacy’s sake, and our adversaries continue to take advantage of it.”
Consequently, it’s a fair question to ask what is the expectation for the US-China meeting? What would be a reasonable outcome with all of the thorny issues between the US and the PRC? “We’re not going to Beijing with the intent of having some sort of breakthrough or transformation in the way that we deal with one another,” Daniel Kritenbrink, assistant secretary of state for East Asian and Pacific affairs, told reporters on a press call according to Reuters. Which brings us back to the question, then why go? It seems the Biden administration embraces symbolic gestures. Talking for the sake of talking seems like a waste of taxpayer dollars.
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