President Joe Biden is not off to a good start. Period. What we're talking about here, though, is foreign policy. The other day, it was reported that North Korea basically laughed in our faces over attempts for contact. A "cheap trick," they called it, responding through a statement carried by their state news agency. The latest and most pressing concern is China. We're screwed. We should be terrified of China, and China knows it. They think we're a joke. They revel in it. Why else do you think China was rooting for President Joe Biden in the 2020 presidential election? That Biden himself joked about it? I thought foreign influence in our elections was serious business?
The event in question took place on Thursday in Alaska, the first gathering between Secretary of State Antony Blinken and high-ranking Chinese officials. This was just the precursor, a press meeting. It wasn't even the real deal, though we'll see if we even get there.
As Matt wrote in his opening:
Team Biden had their first big foreign policy test with China—and they failed. There’s no way to spin it. Even the liberal media is saying the whole meeting in Alaska devolved into anarchy. This meeting is supposedly the one that will determine if President Depends is going to meet with Xi Jinping. By how things turned out, I don’t think we should even consider it. Why embarrass the United States even more?
Director of the the Central Foreign Affairs Commission of the Chinese Communist Party, Yang Jiechi said that "let me say here, in front of the Chinese side, that the United States does not have the qualification to say that it wants to speak to China from a position of strength." That alone should make it a waste.
"The opening remarks are just an appetizer, and the main course later is the big event," Foreign Ministry spokesperson Zhao Lijian said at a daily briefing, CNN reported, one of those media examples. CNN didn't exactly provide Biden with a glowing analysis for his handling of North Korea and Iran, either.
Another of those examples included CNBC, with the headline from Evelyn Cheng's article reading that "First U.S.-China meeting under Biden gets off to a rocky start," where "Expectations were already low." Again, this wasn't even the main event. As Cheng reminds readers, it was "a pre-meeting press event." She continues to write, with added emphasis:
A planned four-minute photo session for the officials to address reporters ended up lasting one hour and 15 minutes due to a frothy exchange, according to NBC News. Both the Chinese and U.S. side kept calling the reporters back into the room so they could add remarks.
As bad as this is from all angles, let's focus on what an embarrassment and a slight this meeting was. Specific statements from Yang Jiechi were a sort of clap back about race. One cannot find mention of atrocities committed against the Uyghurs in the transcript of opening remarks from the meeting, though Blinken did acknowledge the genocide during his confirmation hearing. Uyghur exiles have also recently appealed to Blinken to speak out against the concentration camps they're being held in.
In case you need a refresher, Uyghurs are Muslim minorities China has rounded up and put into concentration camps, also known as re-education camps. There's been rape, torture, family separation. There's also a eugenist population control aspect in mind, thanks to sterilization and forced abortions and IUD placement. China has denied these claims though, and says that they place people into training programs to get rid of extremism. Reporting from Reuters says that:
China has said allegations of forced labour and human rights violations in the region are groundless, and that there are no “detention camps”.
It has also said all those who have attended the complexes in question have “graduated” and gone home. Access is restricted and it is not possible to verify Beijing’s assertions independently.
Please let me know if you can think of a more chilling and typical response from a Communist power.
In response to accusations, the Chinese find Blinken to be "unreasonable" by the way:
“The Chinese side came to Alaska with its mind set on strategic dialog, but the US side overran its time first and made unreasonable accusations, which was not in line with diplomatic protocol, therefore China made a stern response,” the delegation said, according to China’s state broadcaster CGTN Friday.
In addition to their claims that everything is just fine and dandy, and that the Chinese people are happy as can be, Yang Jiechi turned the tables on the United States:
On human rights, we hope that the United States will do better on human rights. China has made steady progress in human rights, and the fact is that there are many problems within the United States regarding human rights, which is admitted by the U.S. itself as well. The United States has also said that countries can't rely on force in today's world to resolve the challenges we face. And it is a failure to use various means to topple the so-called authoritarian states. And the challenges facing the United States in human rights are deep-seated. They did not just emerge over the past four years, such as Black Lives Matter. It did not come up only recently. So we do hope that for our two countries, it's important that we manage our respective affairs well instead of deflecting the blame on somebody else in this world.
We ought to be as indignant as possible, but we can't be surprised. Again, while Sec. Blinken did acknowledge that is "judgment remains that genocide was committed against the Uighurs and that hasn’t changed," Reuters had a different emphasis in their reporting of such remarks. Their January 27, 2021 headline reads "New U.S. secretary of state favors cooperation with China despite genocide of Uighurs." An excerpt from that article includes, with added emphasis:
“Increasingly, that relationship has some adversarial aspects to it. It has competitive ones. And it also still has cooperative ones,” he said, adding that battling climate change was in the interest of both countries.
“I think, and hope, that we’ll be able to pursue that, but that fits within the larger context of, of our foreign policy, and of many issues of concern that we have with China; issues that we need to need to work through.”
It's not just Blinken though. It's President Biden himself. Here's an excerpt of the transcript provided by the White House of a townhall Joe Biden did in Milwaukee on February 17, 2021. Biden was asked directly about "the human rights abuses in China" by Anderson Cooper:
I talked about this, too. And that’s not so much refugee, but I talked about — I said — look, you know, Chinese leaders — if you know anything about Chinese history, it has always been — the time when China has been victimized by the outer world is when they haven’t been unified at home. So the central — to vastly overstate it — the central principle of Xi Jinping is that there must be a united, tightly controlled China. And he uses his rationale for the things he does based on that.
I point out to him: No American President can be sustained as a President if he doesn’t reflect the values of the United States. And so the idea I’m not going to speak out against what he’s doing in Hong Kong, what he’s doing with the Uyghurs in western mountains of China and Taiwan, trying to end the One China policy by making it forceful — I said — and by the — he said he — he gets it. Culturally, there are different norms that each country and they — their leaders — are expected to follow.
The rest of the transcript doesn't help portray the president in any kind of better light on this. He was hit hard by critics then, understandably so, as should have been expected. Biden also claimed that "Well, there will be repercussions for China, and [Xi Jinping] knows that." I'm not convinced, and it's worth betting that Xi isn't either.