China goes to Alaska to dictate terms and interests to America

China goes to Alaska to dictate terms and interests to America
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American officials are ready to participate in the first high level meeting of the administration with their Chinese counterparts this week in Alaska. But those representatives from Beijing are not coming to conduct meaningful discussions. They are coming instead to lecture Secretary of State Antony Blinken and national security adviser Jake Sullivan.

“The Chinese are offering zero accommodations to the United States,” a former defense official said in an interview with Foreign Policy. “They are offering only expectations of the United States to change and no change on their part.” The assessment is consistent with the hardline tone which top Chinese diplomat Yang Jiechi took in his call with Blinken last month. In the past, Chinese officials at a meeting like this one would make some concessions for the American side, or at least note they would, because they had believed the United States to be strong.

Those days are gone. Chinese ruler Xi Jinping now believes the balance of power will soon tip in his favor if it has not already. His propaganda line is now “the East is rising and the West is declining.” This narrative serves his political interest since it bolsters the claims that he is leading the country to historic success. Communist Party foreign policy has always been tied to domestic affairs, but now with the willful Chinese authority. Significant concessions to the United States would undermine a clear semblance of national strength and threaten his hold on power.

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American officials do not understand the hostility of the Communist Party. How can Chinese officials concede to a power declared to be the enemy? The regime does not respect or fear the United States. But why should it? President Biden made unilateral concessions to China in executive orders and actions, like postponing rules against investments in firms tied to the Chinese military, delaying prohibitions on Chinese apps, and rejoining the World Health Organization. No surprise the Chinese elite think they do not have to make concessions to get what they want.

American officials are boxed in. Washington cannot make concessions to a regime that is committing genocide and other crimes against humanity, seeking to break apart other countries, and fueling dominion and control over the global commons. The regime is also conducting experiments to create a master race of Chinese. Beijing, from the indications, is working on pathogens to sicken foreigners. Xi allowed the coronavirus to spread beyond his borders. His China steals somewhere around half of a trillion dollars in American intellectual property each year.

There is no room for negotiating on overarching issues. The United States defends the existing international system of sovereign states. All the while Chinese leaders are trying to replace it with their own global rule. Foreign minister Wang Yi, in a landmark article in the Study Times, in effect argued for the abolition of sovereign states, code for making them the subjects of China. Talking cannot dissolve this core difference.

Why should Blinken and Sullivan bother going to Alaska? Perhaps they are making the effort since just about everyone wants the two countries to sit down, and the administration does not want to appear intransigent. So as political scientist Scott Harold told me, American allies desire Washington to commit itself to a “leading role in the region” but not make competition with China the only relevant framing since “many of these actors also look to cooperate with China, at least tactically, on several issues ranging from economic development to averting armed conflict.”

The administration has spent this month building relations in the region, for instance participating in the Quadrilateral Security Dialogue meeting with the leaders of Australia, Japan, and India last week. Further, Blinken and Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin are renewing friendships in Tokyo and Seoul this week before the high profile talks with Chinese officials in Alaska. Austin then heads to New Delhi next week.

But Washington needs to do more than talk to friends. It has yet to deliver on its many promises to hold China accountable for its unacceptable and deteriorating behavior. There have been numerous rounds of useless talks between the two countries in the last three decades. Xi will be moved just if Biden takes action to defend American interests.

Gordon Chang is a columnist and the author of “The Coming Collapse of China.” You can follow his updates online on Twitter at @GordonGChang.