Blinken’s Submission Tour to China Will Make Beijing Even More Belligerent: Secretary of State Antony Blinken will be in Beijing for two days of meetings starting Sunday. He is expected to sit down with China’s Foreign Minister Qin Gang.
Blinken should not go. He will, by showing up on Chinese soil, be making China’s regime only more arrogant and dangerous.
The State Department’s official announcement of the visit said the secretary of state “will discuss the importance of maintaining open lines of communication to responsibly manage the U.S.-PRC relationship.”
Although the announcement said that there would be discussions of substantive topics—
“He will also raise bilateral issues of concern, global and regional matters, and potential cooperation on shared transnational challenges,” the State Department said—the Biden administration has been trying to lower expectations. As American officials admit, Blinken will be mostly talking about talking.
Now is not the right time to talk to China, however.
For one thing, the Chinese regime is in no mood to have constructive conversations with the United States. The Communist Party, after all, is bent on humiliating America.
The humiliation started even before the State Department’s formal announcement of Blinken’s visit. Qin Gang, in a phone call with the secretary of state, fired the first salvo by demanding that the U.S. “show respect” for China’s interests.
China, for its part, was certainly showing no respect to America. Qin, although bearing the title of foreign minister, is not China’s counterpart to Blinken. Qin reports to Wang Yi, who is about the same rank as America’s secretary of state. China, even before his arrival in Beijing, was therefore denigrating Blinken.
More important, Beijing has been flaunting its disregard. China’s brazenly flying the large spy balloon over Alaska, Canada, and the lower 48 states in January and February, a gross violation of American sovereignty, was a sign of utter disrespect for the United States.
Chinese boldness starts at the top. On March 22, when Xi Jinping was bidding farewell to Vladimir Putin in Moscow at the end of their 40th in-person meeting, the Chinese leader said this: “Change is coming that hasn’t happened in 100 years. And we are driving this change together.”
Xi, the world’s super aggressor, was telling everyone that he was already in charge and that the United States was no longer a factor in global affairs.
Unfortunately, it’s not possible to have meaningful conversations with those believing themselves in charge of the planet. American presidents had failed to “engage” the Chinese regime when it was less sure of itself, so Blinken cannot succeed now, when Xi is the epitome of arrogance.
Looking desperate to talk to Xi’s regime—Blinken is definitely an “ardent suitor”—will only feed the already inflated sense of self-importance of the Chinese ruling group. Nothing good can come of the secretary of state’s efforts, therefore.
“The announcement that the U.S. secretary of state would visit the People’s Republic of China is the 21st century version of the ancient ‘kowtow,’ an especially obsequious sign of servitude demanded by Chinese emperors for all subjects, domestic and foreign,” James Fanell of the Geneva Centre for Security Policy told 19FortyFive. “Numerous PRC press articles clearly state that the Biden administration submitted to the demands of the Communist Party in order to get approval for this visit by Secretary Blinken.”
Defenders of the visit nonetheless suggest that Washington will gain support among fence-sitting capitals by showing that the United States was doing all it could to accommodate Beijing. The idea, these analysts tell us, is to ultimately make China appear the recalcitrant party. Such an argument might have made sense three decades ago, but certainly not at this moment
If countries by now do not think the United States has tried to work with the Communist Party, they never will. Moreover, lowest common denominator solutions, the inevitable result of consensus building efforts like this one, do not work when danger is imminent, as it now appears.
“What makes this visit especially damaging is the fact that it directly undercuts efforts the administration is making to maintain and build alliances to check PRC expansionism,” said Fanell, also a former U.S. Navy captain who served as director of Intelligence and Information Operations at the U.S. Pacific Fleet. “Capitals across the Indo-Pacific are now left wondering about America’s commitment to the region, to freedom from the totalitarianism of the People’s Republic, and to liberty.”
Friends now have to worry about American resolve and judgment. As reported by Reuters on May 11, Blinken’s State Department delayed imposing sanctions, export controls, and other measures on China after the Chinese military flew its large object over North America.
The postponement of these measures, has almost certainly strengthened, legitimized, and emboldened the most hostile elements in senior Communist Party circles because they have seen that there is no cost for aggressive behavior.
Yes, Blinken postponed his Beijing trip after the balloon incident, but he’s now going there anyway. The secretary of state, by relentlessly pursuing the worst of policies, has now opened the door to a new round of Chinese provocation in the region—and elsewhere.