As China continues its economic assault on the U.S. and engages in aggressive actions in the South China Sea, Liberty Nation has kept its readership apprised of the threat China represents. We learn from The Wall Street Journal, in an article by Alex Leary and Bob Davis, that President Biden’s national security advisor Jake Sullivan and Secretary of State Antony Blinken are going to meet with “their Chinese counterparts, Yang Jiechi a member of the Politburo, the Communist Party’s top decision-making body, and Wang Yi, the Foreign Minister.”
The meeting is to be held in Anchorage, Alaska, and scheduled for March 18 and 19. The idea is that both teams will have time to get positions lined up that span several prickly issues. China historically engages in bilateral discussion with well-established CCP positions. For Beijing, these opportunities are not seen as friendly chats.
The Experience Gap
Secretary Blinken will have been in the job 51 days when he sits down with his opposite Wang Yi who has been China’s Foreign Minister for eight years, dealing with now the third U.S. administration. Jake Sullivan has six days on Secretary Blinken since he came on board when President Biden was inaugurated.
Sitting across the table from Sullivan will be Yang Jiechi, who has been director of the Central Foreign Affairs Commission of the CCP for eight years as well. To suggest there may be an experience mismatch may be an understatement. For the U.S., a better grasp of the issues would be more likely in nine months to a year – with the Biden administration having more experience working with allies and friends in the Pacific.
Again, from The Wall Street Journal, Blinken told the House Foreign Affairs Committee recently that the U.S. team wants to cover “Beijing’s actions and behaviors that are challenging the security, the prosperity and the values of the United States.” He also listed other topics, including the “COVID-19 pandemic, climate change, and issues of disagreement, including China’s stance on Hong Kong and pressure on Taiwan, and the ‘undeclared economic embargoes’ China has placed on Australia.”
In a Politico article, Ben Leonard quotes Blinken’s comments to the House Foreign Affairs Committee, in what may be an attempt to lower expectations for the meeting. Blinken explained:
“This is not a strategic dialogue. There’s no intent at this point for a series of follow-on engagements. Those engagements, if they are to follow, really have to be based on the proposition that we’re seeing tangible progress and tangible outcomes on the issues of concern to us with China.”
Much of the rub between the U.S. and China involves national defense issues like Freedom of Navigation Operation to establish free passage in the South China Sea. The consequences of military miscalculation leading to a military clash will make climate change pale in comparison.
Speaking to that point, Jim Garamone, reporting from the Pentagon in DOD News, said: “Commander of U.S. Indo-Pacific Command, Navy Admiral Philip Davidson told the Senate Armed Services Committee that the greatest danger facing the U.S. is the erosion of conventional deterrence capabilities and that his “primary worry is the Peoples Republic of China.” The Combatant Commander went on to explain:
“In stark contrast to our free and open vision, the Communist Party of China promotes a closed and an authoritarian system through internal oppression and external aggression. China’s pernicious approach to the region includes a whole-of-party effort to coerce, corrupt and collapse governments, businesses, organizations and the people of the Indo-Pacific.”
The Biden foreign policy team should be less in a hurry to sit down with the Chinese. Having more experience under its belt, the U.S. team could have a more “strategic” and comprehensive discussion. There are many more subjects that would benefit from a dialogue with Beijing’s leadership. Fruitful talks are needed to reduce China’s threat of holding back shipments of rare earth metals and microelectronics required by the United States defense industrial base and domestic high-tech products.
Furthermore, China’s operations in the Arctic are of concern. As Yun Sun in The Arctic Institute Report gives this caution: “China has claimed benevolent intentions in peace, development, and improving Arctic governance. However, given the opaqueness of China’s decision-making and capability development, many American policymakers and observers, if not most, remain skeptical or even hostile toward China’s potential in the Arctic.”
A Reuters article recapping President Biden’s first telephone call to China’s leader Xi Jinping said Biden relayed that he and his counterpart appeared to be at odds on every major subject. Biden spoke candidly on China’s worldwide activities; he warned: “if we don’t get moving, they are going to eat our lunch.” On that note, let’s hope that wrapping up the discussions next week, Secretary Blinken doesn’t hand Wang Yi the soup and sandwich menu.
The views expressed are those of the author and not of any other affiliation.
Read more from Dave Patterson.