The US 2020 presidential election is probably the most eventful one in American history. The anxiety and sharp division among voters could not be attributed entirely to the Coronavirus, which of course did make the U.S. death toll topping the world record. The partisan conflict has existed for decades, but the continued economic stagnation, the decay of the US international reputation and a gloomy future for better living for citizens are actually the main reasons for unrest in the society. Biden, eventually being confirmed as the winner, has assembled a decent cabinet staff based on identity politics, meaning with due consideration of race, gender, sex orientation and professional background. He selected many public servants from the Obama Administration, thus familiar to him. As a seasoned politician, Biden has acted quickly with his team first focusing on the domestic issues and then international problems especially the US-China relations.
Focusing on the pandemic and revitalizing the economy have to be his top priority, but the high-tension US-China relation is also demanding his attention as seen from the Senate confirmation process. The responsibility of managing US-China relations falls on Antony Blinken, confirmed as the Secretary of State, Jake Sullivan as the National Security Adviser and Kurt Campbell the White House AP Coordinator. They have kept a cautious and conservative stand publicly, but they have been busy formulating a strategy since confirmation. First, an Interim National Security Guidance Report was published on March 3, 2021, China was named as a serious competitor, calling for a strategy to form alliances with allies to counter the rise of China. No action on US-China trade yet even though a Chinese American, Katherine Tai, a distinguished law professional, very well versed in international trade regulations was confirmed as the new US Trade Representative. The Biden Administration seems to want to bundle the trade disputes with the national security issue, even though resolving trade conflict through trade regulation talks may seem to be a more sensible approach. China was not badly hurt by the US-China trade war. During the COVID-19 impacted 2020, China gained even more confidence by emerging out as the only country with a positive GDP growth
Although the U.S. just defined China as a serious competitor, but the U.S. foreign policy had always been practical. The U.S. has always taken a fuzzy position, for example, on the Taiwan issue, to allow practical bargaining for interest exchange. The Shanghai communique was born out of an exchange for China’s support in US sanction against the Soviet Union. The U.S. is now contemplating a ‘Quad+’ (Quad+ means US-Japan-S. Korea-India+Australia and others) alliance against China, Biden has kicked off a ‘quad’ leaders video conference on March 12, but it is only a strategy at this point, far from materializing into a little ‘NATO’ for certain. India has long held the position of no-alliance so to be independent in her foreign affairs. China is the largest trading partner with Japan, S. Korea, and India, thus their economic ties would not necessarily welcome a hostile ‘quad+’ idea. However, Blinken, Sullivan and Floyd Austin (Secretary of Defense) had followed up with a series of high level talks to solidify the Quad strategy by visiting Japan (March 15-16, the joint press conference stated that: the U.S. is still under policy review [hence no solid commitment] and Japan essentially reiterated the US-Japan mutual defense treaty and her desired 'applicability' to Senkaku (Diaoyu) Islands) and S. Korea (March 16-17, the joint press conference made mention of the Atlanta anti-Asian hate crime with no mention to China by S. Korea.). The Austin's three-day visit to India (March 18-20) was completely shadowed by the 2+2 meeting (March 18-19), where the two top diplomats of China, Yang Jiechi, Central Committee Member for Foreign Affairs and Wang Yi, Foreign Minister, were invited by Blinken and Sullivan for a strategic dialogue at Anchorage.
First, from the tight multiple 2+2 meeting schedules, we can deduce a few significant points. The U.S. seems to be anxious to figure out whether such a ‘Quad+’ alliance can really pan out. (Note: The above U.S. under policy review statement) The U.S. must ascertain what Japan, S. Korea and India really think about the 'Quad' idea. News has reported that the Anchorage meeting with China was suggested by Japan and/or S. Korea, if so, it would mean that they perhaps like to figure out China’s reaction towards 'quad' before they make any serious commitment. Thus, understandably, Blinken and Sullivan would like to have a 2+2 meeting with China as soon as possible. Gaining high level information directly from China to guide their policy review process and to verify their assumptions made in the formulation of a workable quad+ strategy would be useful. Judging from their Asia press releases, the quad+ strategy is far from assured in fulfillment.
The invitation to have a 2+2 talk with Chinese top diplomats was sincere but the execution was messed up. The acceptance of 2+2 invitation by the Chinese delegates is consistent with their usual belief that having communication and dialogue is always good for resolving differences. However, on the day before the talk, the U.S. issued a sanction against a group of Hong Kong (HK) officials for their application of the National Security Law to deal with the HK unrest. This provocative move before the 2+2 meeting negated any sincerity of having a productive meeting. The Chinese delegates could simply cancel their trip to make a protest, but they chose to come to Anchorage and express their displeasure in person. That is why after hearing more accusations from the U.S. at Anchorage, they decided to unload their steam. Perhaps that was the U.S. intention to provoke China to get reactions to appease the U.S. allies. However, the U.S. misunderstood and underestimated China’s hard-earned self-confidence. So at the first open meeting with the presence of press, we witnessed an unprecedented diplomatic performance of Chinese diplomats, speaking from their hearts with justice and passion without reading from notes to tell the U.S. delegates that they have violated the basic decency of diplomacy and began to refute each false accusation and counter attack the U.S. with her own human rights violations and double-standard hypocrisy .
The Chinese delegates expressed their anger with no reservation because they knew they were right. Indeed, HK, Xinjiang and Taiwan are China’s internal affairs. HK was legitimately returned to China as a part of China. The HK protests turned into violence and criminal acts were worse than what happened in the U.S. including the latest Congress Capitol building break-in. Yet the U.S. holds a double standard, arresting U.S. protesters as criminals but calling HK criminals as hreedom fighters. On the Xinjiang matter, the U.S. deliberately ignored many Muslim countries, UN and international groups' commendation of China’s effort in protecting her Muslim minority from terrorists by providing them education, training and jobs; and maliciously fabricated a 'genocide' story against the Chinese government. China has tried to maintain a policy of one country two systems to allow Taiwan to proceed with a peaceful reunification. This policy has been held consistently for past 50 years, granting Taiwan the most favorable trading partner and making her export to Mainland China reaching $100B (43.8% of total). At the U.S.-China 2+2 meeting, we witnessed a rare phenomenon that the Chinese diplomats spoke from their hearts when they could not stand the false smearing any more.
After the closed sessions, the Chinese press release seemed to still offer a hopeful sign. As a U.S. citizen, I sincerely hope that this unusual 2+2 meeting has given the U.S. some food for thought. The U.S. and China are two great nations on equal footing. We must accept a true co-competition or co- cooperation relationship for mutual benefits and the welfare of the world. Rhetoric and fake news should never be tolerated in democracy and international relations.