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Gordon Chang: Joe Biden Should Cancel His Call with China’s Xi Jinping

Joe Biden China
President Joe Biden, joined by First Lady Jill Biden, delivers remarks on the mass shooting at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas, Tuesday, May 24, 2022, in the Roosevelt Room of the White House. (Official White House Photo by Adam Schultz)

Biden Call with Xi Jinping: Time to Hang Up on China – President Joe Biden is scheduled to speak with Chinese ruler Xi Jinping on Thursday.

What’s the point of that exercise? American leaders have been talking with their Chinese counterparts for decades, and for decades Chinese behavior has only gotten more belligerent and dangerous. Americans must be doing something wrong.

Biden, however, can begin to do something right about China. He can cancel tomorrow’s discussion.

The July 28 call will be the first Biden-Xi conversation since March and the fifth since Biden took office. The Associated Press termed it one of their “regular check-ins.”

Apart from the serial leader discussions, Biden officials have passionate about “engaging” Beijing. For instance, Secretary of State Antony Blinken conducted a meeting lasting more than five hours with Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi this month on the sidelines of the G20 ministerial meeting in Bali.

In June, National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan sat down with China’s top diplomat, the increasingly disagreeable Yang Jiechi, for almost five hours of “candid” and “productive” conversation.

Yang, Wang, Sullivan, and Blinken were participants in the now-infamous two-day meeting in Anchorage in March of last year. The Chinese came to Alaska to lecture America in public, not to engage in good-faith conversations.

Americans should not be surprised by Beijing’s hostile tone.

The Communist Party, by its nature, is militant. Its diplomacy is built on traditional Chinese notions of tianxia—worldwide rule—and now Beijing espouses a modern ideology that delegitimizes all other societies. The Party’s political system idealizes struggle and domination.

Yet even within this context, Beijing a decade ago conducted a constructive-looking diplomacy and expressed what appeared to be a sincere desire to get along with others.

No longer, unfortunately.

Why has Beijing taken the wrong turn? One reason is that Washington created incentives for the vary behavior it abhorred. For decades—especially after the Cold War—American policymakers have been determined to show Chinese rulers that they calculate their interests incorrectly, that it is in China’s interest to integrate into a liberal international order in which Beijing had no hand in creating. This American goal was, to put it politely, confident, generous, and naïve.

American presidents continually warned China but almost always failed to follow up, something especially evident as the Biden administration leaned on Beijing to not support the Russian war effort in Ukraine but failed to impose sanctions for China’s all-in assistance. By not making good on their words, presidents have taught China’s leaders to ignore American warnings.

No wonder Xi Jinping is now so brazen.

And this is a particularly bad time to have any discussions with Xi Jinping. The Chinese regime has just ordered the Biden administration to stop House Speaker Nancy Pelosi from going to Taiwan.

On July 19, immediately after the Financial Times reported that the Speaker was scheduling a trip there in August, the Chinese foreign ministry threatened to take “resolute and forceful measures to defend national sovereignty and territorial integrity” should she carry through on her plans.

Biden on the following day publicly suggested he was opposed to the Speaker’s trip. “Well, I think that the military thinks it’s not a good idea right now,” the President told reporters, referring to the reports of a possible Taiwan visit. “But I don’t know what the status of it is.”

The President’s words told China there was disagreement inside his administration, which was essentially an invitation to Beijing to make even more threats to influence the outcome.

China, therefore, has made this a test of will, so Biden should postpone his call with Xi until after Speaker Pelosi has completed her trip. Then, after showing the Chinese they do not hold a veto over U.S. foreign policy, he can have a conversation with Xi.

So a Biden-Xi call is now premature. Why give the Chinese leader an opportunity to humiliate America?

“The ask is that China needs to stand on the right side of history,” Wendy Sherman, deputy secretary of state, told CNN in March.

Chinese leaders believe they are standing there already.

Of course, China’s Communists have been on history’s wrong side for decades, but optimistic Americans are still talking to them as if Chinese leaders are just about to abandon fervently held beliefs.

The Chinese know when not to talk. Americans need to learn this skill as well.

It’s time to hang up on China.

Now a 1945 Contributing Editor, Gordon G. Chang is the author of The Coming Collapse of China and The Great U.S.-China Tech War. Follow him on Twitter @GordonGChang

Written By

Gordon G. Chang is the author of The Great U.S.-China Tech War and Losing South Korea, booklets released by Encounter Books. His previous books are Nuclear Showdown: North Korea Takes On the World and The Coming Collapse of China, both from Random House. Chang lived and worked in China and Hong Kong for almost two decades, most recently in Shanghai, as Counsel to the American law firm Paul Weiss and earlier in Hong Kong as Partner in the international law firm Baker & McKenzie.

9 Comments

9 Comments

  1. jbspry

    July 27, 2022 at 5:37 pm

    Mr Chang, you never hang up on your boss.

    FJB

  2. pagar

    July 27, 2022 at 5:42 pm

    Heh, heh. Both biden and xi stand on the WRONG SIDE of god.

    Biden is the quintessential product of american society, while xi is modelling himself after american presidents.

    Biden, like all past presidents, is a war president, thus we’ve these proxy wars here and there.

    Xi, with his aim to stand at the center of the world when his country just doesn’t have the requisites to allow him to do so. Both will end up in the lake of fire.

  3. Barry Obummer

    July 27, 2022 at 9:03 pm

    “One reason is that Washington created incentives for the vary behavior it abhorred.”

    That would be “very”.

  4. TheDon

    July 27, 2022 at 11:12 pm

    War with china? Its obvious our press has never seen real conflict.
    China and US share peace by cooperation on goods, food, products.
    The US had major production advantage in WWII
    Thers 2 losers in war.
    One big, one small, many families that dont forget.

  5. Joe Comment

    July 27, 2022 at 11:51 pm

    The US and Mainland China need to talk, because there are a lot of highly dangerous issues between us. The Taiwan question, Mainland China’s territorial disputes with US allies, the Korean question, rules around use of the seas near China, the Ukraine question, nuclear arms race and proliferation, trade friction. Some of those are urgent, so I don’t think it’s wise to delay talks for the sake of scoring a political point.

  6. Jim Higgins

    July 28, 2022 at 7:35 am

    Well and accurately said.

  7. Jim

    July 28, 2022 at 9:39 am

    The telephone call can be delayed.

    The Pelosi visit was a bad decision per timing and the situation in Ukraine and Taiwan. There doesn’t seem to have been consultation with the Biden Administration before the trip was announced (I called my senators & rep. to voice my feeling that the Pelosi visit was “poking the dragon” and ill timed).

    However, after considering Mr. Chang’s reasoning and others, now that the Pelosi trip has been announced, it should be followed through… yes, strength of purpose, should be demonstrated by staying the course and also it’s important not to appear intimidated.

    (Still the visit is an example of bad foreign policy — timing & situations matter.)

    Make the Biden–Xi call after the visit (it might be Xi who won’t take the call after the Pelosi visit is completed).

    What then?

    The U. S. at present has an incoherent policy regarding China… some would say it’s a schizophrenic policy.

    The national security of the U. S. is a stake.

    We must have a rational & thought out policy that takes into account secondary and tertiary effects, as well dealing with primary issues & concerns.

    The China foreign policy debate in the U. S. has so far not produced a satisfactory policy.

    We need one.

  8. Jim

    July 28, 2022 at 10:39 am

    Update — The Biden — Xi call has been made (so, now, it’s water under the bridge).

    Again, the U. S. needs a strong & firm China Policy.

    But one that doesn’t cause a war (over Taiwan or any other reason). Sadly & dangerously an incoherent and/or schizophrenic China Policy will walk America into a disastrous situation (factions in the Chinese Communist Party want a war with the foreign devil to avenge 19th Century colonialism & early 20 Century perceived humiliations).

    And the worst part of it? China might win a war over Taiwan at present (they’re as ready for war as they have ever been in the modern history of China).

    War with China would culminate a series of disastrous foreign policies (both political parties) that could leave the U. S. a wrecked country.

  9. David Chang

    July 30, 2022 at 1:44 am

    God bless people in the world.

    There is some unexplained history in this statement of author.

    Since Karl Marx announced the Communist Manifesto,
    people in Korea, Japan, Vietnam, and China-Taiwan-Hong Kong, begin to believe socialism.

    High school and university teachers teach students to believe Karl Marx economics, socialism, psychology, and reports begin to promote socialism war.

    Eighty years ago, many Hong Kong people cooperated with British Labour Party to help Communist Party occupying China because they believe socialism and evolution.

    Hope Hong Kong people confess and repent to God.

    So, writers of 1945, please explain your future expectations for the country and world with history and morality.

    God bless America.

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