The Biden administration held its first face-to-face meeting with the Chinese regime last week. The American side was represented by Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken and Jake Sullivan, President Biden’s national security adviser. Their counterparts were Chinese Director of the Office of the Central Commission for Foreign Affairs Yang Jiechi and Foreign Minister Wang Yi. While most of the discussions in Anchorage, Alaska were held behind closed doors, the public open session set the table with an exchange of insults that resembled an ugly food fight.
Blinken and Sullivan tried to put on a show of tough talk concerning a range of issues dividing the United States and China. They pointed to China’s abysmal human rights record, especially against the ethnic minority of Uyghurs in China’s western Xinjiang province, and China’s suppression of freedoms in Hong Kong. They accused China of engaging in cyberattacks and using coercive actions in the military and economic spheres. “Each of these actions threaten the rules-based order that maintains global stability,” Blinken declared to the Chinese delegation sitting across from him. “That’s why they’re not merely internal matters and why we feel an obligation to raise these issues here today.”
What Blinken and Sullivan failed to mention in their opening remarks is more striking than what they said. They ignored the giant elephant in the room – the coronavirus that originated in China and the Chinese regime’s coverup of the truth about the virus’s human contagion until it was too late. Blinken and Sullivan lost a valuable opportunity to ask their high-level Chinese counterparts why, if China’s government has nothing to hide, it did not provide the World Health Organization’s investigatory team that recently visited China unfettered access to China’s laboratory facilities and personnel. Why all the stonewalling?
China’s officials sternly replied to the public statements by Blinken and Sullivan and the tone in which the statements were delivered. Director Yang Jiechi and Foreign Minister Wang Yi essentially told their U.S. counterparts that the United States does not speak for the world and should clean up its own messes before presuming to lecture the Chinese or butting into China’s internal affairs. The strategy was to turn the tables on the United States and put the Biden administration’s senior representatives on the defensive.
“The United States itself does not represent international public opinion, and neither does the Western world,” Director Yang said. “I don’t think the overwhelming majority of countries in the world would recognize that the universal values advocated by the United States or that the opinion of the United States could represent international public opinion, and those countries would not recognize that the rules made by a small number of people would serve as the basis for the international order.”
Yang went on the offensive regarding the issue of human rights. He denied that China’s government abused its people’s rights and threw Blinken’s criticisms of China’s record right back at the United States. “On human rights, we hope that the United States will do better on human rights,” he said. “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.”
China’s Foreign Minister Wang complained about the Biden administration’s recent escalation of sanctions against Chinese officials just before the Chinese delegation’s departure for the Alaska meeting. Noting that the United States was hosting the meeting on its territory, Wang said, “This is not supposed to be the way one should welcome his guests, and we wonder if this is a decision made by the United States to try to gain some advantage in dealing with China, but certainly this is miscalculated and only reflects the vulnerability and weakness inside the United States.”
Blinken then made some additional remarks in which he proceeded to offer an Obama-style admission that the U.S. has made its own share of mistakes. Blinken’s admission was a lame attempt to show the Chinese delegation how introspective and transparent the U.S. can be as it strives to self-correct. The Chinese were not impressed.
“We make mistakes, we have reversals, we take steps back,” Blinken said. “But what we’ve done throughout our history is to confront those challenges openly, publicly, transparently, not trying to ignore them, not trying to pretend they don’t exist, not trying to sweep them under a rug.” Sullivan added that “the secret sauce of America” is “to look hard at its own shortcomings and constantly seek to improve.”
The idea that the United States’ noble experiment of freedom and self-government is an evolving work in progress is fine to express to the American people. But any admission by American leaders of faults in the U.S. political and economic system to America’s adversaries is taken as a sign by those adversaries that America is in a self-inflicted death spiral. From the Chinese delegation’s perspective, Blinken and Sullivan ended up causing the United States they represented to lose face while the Chinese admitted no wrong.
Indeed, the Chinese regime believes that it has the upper hand in dealing with the United States. China’s President Xi Jinping has laid out a long-term strategic plan that he is convinced will catapult China ahead of the United States as the world’s strongest superpower. Xi has urged his government subordinates to “grasp clearly the grand trend that the East is rising while the West is declining.”
China’s leaders will never publicly concede that the Chinese Communist way of life has any shortcomings. China’s not-so-secret sauce is the conviction, amplified by government indoctrination, that China’s civilization is culturally superior to the rest of the world and will return to its ancient glory under the Communist regime’s rule.
China’s Director Yang Jiechi and Foreign Minister Wang Yi carried this belief that destiny is inevitably on China’s side with them to Alaska. Blinken’s and Sullivan’s admissions of faults in American society fed right into the Chinese narrative. As former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said in commenting on the meeting, “Strength deters bad guys, weakness only invites war.”
This is not to say that China lacks anything to boast about. China has made enormous strides both economically and technologically in the last two decades. This has allowed China to extend its global influence through its massive Belt and Road Initiative and to maneuver its way towards dominating globalist institutions. However, China’s economic and technological strengths are largely the product of misguided U.S. policies that enabled China’s rapid growth, including those advocated by Biden himself when he was a senator and vice president. Moreover, as former assistant director of intelligence for the FBI Kevin R. Brock observed in an article he wrote for The Hill, “China largely has cheated its way to prosperity.” Stealing valuable intellectual property and using deceptive tactics to gain an unfair economic advantage are second nature to the Communist regime and its state-owned companies.
China brushes off criticisms of its human rights record such as those uttered by Blinken and Sullivan at the Alaska public session. China has plenty of friends willing to take China’s side on this issue. Right now, however, the world is still facing the lethal consequences of the coronavirus pandemic that many countries ascribe to China. Blinken and Sullivan should have used the opportunity in the public session to pressure the Chinese regime to fully cooperate in a truly independent investigation of the origin of the coronavirus pandemic, what China knew, and when they knew it. This would mean allowing a team of world-renowned health experts, selected without any China veto, unfettered access to its facilities and personnel. This team must be able to report its findings without any interference from Chinese government officials. That was not the case with the recent visit by health specialists to China under the auspices of the World Health Organization. That so-called “investigation” got nowhere because the World Health Organization allowed China to run the show.
Blinken and Sullivan should also have ditched their generalities about China and the United States. Instead, they should have factually demonstrated how America’s ongoing, unparalleled success story makes it the most desirable destination for so many of the world’s most talented people to live, study and work. They could have pointed to the Chinese regime’s own failure to secure the return of many Chinese students who go to the United States to study and want to remain in the U.S. after they graduate. Blinken and Sullivan also could have highlighted the regime’s dismal failure to attract international talent to China as compared with the United States. The best and brightest prefer pursuing their careers in America’s open, free society than in China’s closed society where everything is controlled by China’s Communist Party.
According to statistics compiled by the National Science Foundation for the years 2011-2017, the percentage of Chinese citizens (including Hong Kong residents considered Chinese nationals) receiving their doctorate degrees “with temporary visas intending to stay in the United States after doctorate receipt” remained over 80 percent during the entire period. In 2017, the percentage intending to stay in the United States was 83.2 percent.
The Chinese graduates managing to stay in the United States enjoy the good life here and do not want to return to living more constricted lives in Communist China. The Chinese regime benefits only to the extent that any of their nationals remaining in the United States after graduation had been recruited by Chinese officials to steal and transmit valuable U.S. intellectual property back to their handlers in the Chinese government. Unlike China, the United States does not have to steal other countries’ intellectual property to advance technologically.
New technological innovations sprout up in a creative environment which, in turn, is nourished by individual freedoms. That is why, unless Joe Biden and his progressive left base destroy this country from within with their plans for fundamental transformation, the 21st century will be America’s century.