Rocky re-start for US-China relations as superpowers swap punches
Top US and Chinese officials have been meeting again, following an un-diplomatic clash in the first high-level contact between Washington and Beijing since Joe Biden took over the US Presidency.
After the opening on Thursday, the two sides traded blows, with the US accusing the Chinese delegation of “grandstanding” for their domestic audience, and Beijing saying there was a “strong smell of gunpowder and drama” in the room, entirely the fault of the Americans.
In unusually pointed remarks for a diplomatic meeting, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Chinese Communist Party foreign affairs chief Yang Jiechi took aim at each other’s country's policies. The contentious tone of their public comments suggested the private discussions would be even more aggressive.
The visit to Anchorage follows touch-downs with Washinton's staunchest allies in the region, Japan and South Korea, who are both in favour of a stronger strategy against Beijing.
WATCH: U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken and national security adviser Jake Sullivan opened their meeting with China’s top diplomat Yang Jiechi and State Councilor Wang Yi in Alaska, sparring in a highly unusual back-and-forth in front of cameras https://t.co/KHeJqfXIWA pic.twitter.com/SzNUEdzX9E— Reuters India (@ReutersIndia) March 19, 2021
But Washington's approach may backfire, says Biden-critic James Bradley, author of the bestselling book Flags of our Fathers, and publications about China and the Sino-US relationship in the Pacific.
"There has been a change in the relationship," he says. "Commentators keep saying that China has to change its behavior. That was fine in 1955, or 1965. But the West is slow to realize the breathtaking changes taking place."
Bradley points out that in just a few decades, the economic and military power balance between China and the US has been shifting to the advantage of Beijing.
"In 1995, (then US President) Bill Clinton was involved in political fights and Monica Lewinsky was dominating the headlines . . . the founders of Huawei were sleeping on cement floors in China." In less than two decades, they went on to establish a telecoms company that supplied major western countries with electronic equipment.
Google co-founder Eric Schmidt recently worried, while testifying before the Senate Committee on Armed Services, that China "could surpass the United States as the world’s Artificial Intelligence superpower" within the next decade, pointing out that the Chinese were already "more technically advanced in certain applications."
Rock in the soup
While Chinese officials have rejected any US criticism regarding China's dealings with Hong Kong and Xinjiang, to say nothing of the human rights situation in general, Bradley thinks that "the biggest rock in the soup" is Taiwan, which is informally protected by Washington through the Taiwan Relations Act, which promises US assistance in case of an invasion by Beijing.
"Emperor Mao (Zedong) made China one," says Bradley. Emperor Deng (Xiaoping) made China rich; and Emperor Xi (Jinping) wants to make China whole.
"And the whole includes Taiwan. Once that's done, that's China. China's looking to enrich itself and continue its success," he says.
But will that lead to war between China and the US?
"It takes two to tango," says Bradley. "The United States pushed out into the Pacific. But China is not into expansion. China doesn't want to take California. China doesn't want to rule the world. They see America failing and going broke.
"Beijing is not looking for war, the business of China is business, the business of America is war."
Echoing Beijing, Bradley says that it "is time to go back a little further in history, and see that Taiwan is part of China, and China can take care of it as an internal matter, or America can force war into the equation."
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