U.S. – China Talks Point To A Longer Conflict

26 July 2021 — Moon of Alabama

The U.S. wants to slice and dice its approach to China. It will use all means to take advantage of China where it can, while restricting China in those fields were it can no longer compete with it. The Chinese reject that approach. The U.S., they say, should not see China as an enemy. It should stop lecturing China, accept it as an equal and cooperate with it in all fields.

The U.S. is unwilling to do that. Its media-military-industrial complex is already primed for a cold war with China. Trillions of dollars are to be made from it. China on the other side is ready to play hardball if it must.

Today U.S. Deputy Secretary of State Wendy Sherman held talks with the Chinese Deputy Foreign Minister Xie Feng, She also meet with Foreign Minister Wang Yi. The later meeting, demanded to be the main event by the U.S., had already led to some squabble. Wang Yi is beyond Sherman’s rank and her main discussion, the Chinese insisted, should be with a person on her own level:

The State Department emphasized Sherman will have “senior-level” communications but a statement from China’s Foreign Affairs Ministry emphasized that Sherman “will hold talks” with Xie and after that Foreign Minister Wang will “meet her.”

On Saturday two ‘senior U.S. administration officials’ gave a preview of the talks:

As Secretary Blinken has said, the U.S. relationship with China will be collaborative where it can be, competitive where it should be, and adversarial where it must be. And we expect all dimensions of the relationship will be on the table for discussion during Wendy’s meetings.

In Tianjin, [Sherman is] going to make clear while we welcome stiff and sustained competition with the PRC, everyone needs to play by the same rules and on the level – on a level playing field.

She’s going to underscore that we do not want that stiff and sustained competition to veer into conflict. This is why the U.S. wants to ensure that there are guard rails and parameters in place to responsibly manage the relationship.

The second official added:

So let me also put this meeting into the context of the administration’s broader China policy effort. Since President Biden took office, we’ve put a lot of focus on strengthening our own competitive hand vis-a-vis China through many actions that we’ve taken domestically, investing in ourselves at home. We’ve also rallied our allies and partners, including to advance an affirmative vision of the rules-based international order. And we’ve confronted China when they’ve acted against our interests and values while working to cooperate with China on areas like climate change and nonproliferation.

We know we’re stronger when we work with our allies. We know this makes us more effective when dealing with Beijing. We aren’t seeking an anti-China coalition in our work with allies and partners, but rather trying to work together in a multilateral fashion to uphold the international rules-based order.

With all of those actions underway, we’re entering this engagement from a position of strength and of solidarity.

Even as we meet with our Chinese counterparts, we will also continue to hold China accountable. These things are not mutually exclusive, and it should be clear that we are not afraid to impose costs for China’s behavior that undermines international norms.

As Peter Lee commented with his usual snark:

chinahand @chinahand –16:43 UTC · Jul 24, 2021

“We’re going to keep kicking your ass. Don’t kick back, ‘kay?” Our fate now that dime store Machiavellis, excuse me, generational talents, run the FP show.

The emphasized words were not welcome in China. On Sunday Foreign Minister Wang Yi responded in an interview with an attack on U.S. exceptionalism:

“The United States always wants to exert pressure on other countries by virtue of its own strength, thinking that it is superior to others,” Foreign Minister Wang Yi said on Saturday.

“However, I would like to tell the US side clearly that there has never been a country in this world that is superior to others, nor should there be, and China will not accept any country claiming to be superior to others.

“If the United States has not learned how to get along with other countries on an equal footing by now, then it is our responsibility, together with the international community, to give the US a good tutorial in this regard.”

Today, after the talk between Sherman and Xie, the Foreign Ministry published a series of strong response snippets by Deputy Foreign Minister Xie Feng:

I especially like the one about the ‘rules based international order’:

On 26 July, during his talks with U.S. Deputy Secretary of State Wendy Sherman, Vice Foreign Minister Xie Feng made the comment that the U.S. side’s so-called “rules-based international order” is an effort by the United States and a few other Western countries to frame their own rules as international rules and impose them on other countries. The United States has abandoned the universally-recognized international law and order and damaged the international system it has helped to build. And it is trying to replace it with a so-called “rules-based international order”. The purpose is to resort to the tactic of changing the rules to make life easy for itself and hard for others, and to introduce “the law of the jungle” where might is right and the big bully the small.

The SCMP summerizes:

China has for the first time given the US a list of red lines and remedial action it must take to repair relations, including lifting sanctions and dropping its extradition request for Huawei financial chief Meng Wanzhou.

Chinese foreign vice-minister Xie Feng told US deputy secretary of state Wendy Sherman on Monday morning that US-China relations had reached a “stalemate” and faced “serious consequences”, according to a Chinese foreign ministry statement.

“The foundational reason is that some people in the US are treating China as an ‘imagined enemy’,” it quoted Xie as saying.

After the meeting, Xie said China gave two lists to the US – one with one remedial action for Washington to take towards China, and the other a series of Beijing’s key concerns.

Xie said the Chinese side also “expressed its strong dissatisfaction towards the wrong remarks and actions of the US” in relation to investigations into the origins of Covid-19, Taiwan, Xinjiang, Hong Kong and the South China Sea.

“We urge the United States not to underestimate the strong determination, firm will and strong ability of the 1.4 billion Chinese people to safeguard national sovereignty, security and development interests,” state news agency Xinhua quoted him as saying.

In its summary of the talks the Associated Press points to the basic difference in the approaches:

High-level face-to-face talks between U.S. and Chinese diplomats on Monday highlighted sharp differences between the sides, although the tone appeared somewhat less contentious than at their last meeting.

Xie said China wants to seek common ground while shelving differences, highlighting a divide in the basic approach to their relationship. The Biden administration has said it will cooperate in areas such as climate but confront China in others such as human rights, describing the relationship as collaborative, competitive and adversarial.

As the U.S. is for now rejecting the Chinese offer for burying the hatchet China will have to play hardball. It will not be cooperative in the fields where the U.S. wants it to be cooperative (Iran, North Korea, etc.). It will also be adversarial in fields where the U.S. has little ability to push back (rare earth exports, Boeing 737MAX re-certification).

The U.S. hopes that it can find and press ‘allies’ into confronting China. But Europe already rejected that. To others, especially in Asia, the U.S. looks like a declining power because it is a declining powerand the economic interests of most nations now favor China. Under these circumstances I for one fail to see how the U.S. could win in a longer cold conflict.

How long then will it take until the U.S. recognizes that and steps down from its illusion of supremacy?

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