Blinken Trip to China Exposes American Weakness
Secretary of State Antony Blinken cancelled the original planned trip to Beijing because there was a Chinese spy balloon floating over the United States’ top-secret military and nuclear sites. Though authorities saw it coming to the western Pacific coast, President Biden did not allow it to be shot down until it had completed its mission and was passing over the eastern Atlantic coast. Why Biden waited has never been satisfactorily explained.
The Blinken visit was rescheduled and recently completed. In the aftermath of the high-level meeting – including a session with President Xi Jinping — one can only wonder why Blinken even bothered.
Generally, such high-level meetings have “take aways” – some achievable goals or mutual agreements. They are usually negotiated in advance by mid-level diplomats.
With regard to the Blinken mission, there were no anticipated “take aways” – no likely areas of agreement. And … none were achieved. While there was nothing productive coming out of the meetings for the United States, there was damage. There were a number of hot-button topics to be discussed between the United States and China – many of which were of keen interest to American allies. In a sense, Blinken was representing more than the United States.
One of America’s key requests was the re-establishment of the direct phone line between the military leaders of each nation. U.S. Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin said the direct contact was essential to avoiding a tragic mistake. Xi rejected the request.
On the issue of the expansion of spy bases in Cuba, Blinken got no assurances – other than the implied assurance that those developments would continue. There was no accountability for the Covid-19 Pandemic or admission by China that the virus had escaped from the Wuhan laboratory. No promise by China to cease the provocative air and sea military brush-ups over the South China Sea – or the cessation of claims of hegemony over the waterway. No promise to terminate the building of island military bases in recognized international waters.
While Xi has responded negatively to Russian President Putin’s request for sophisticated military equipment for his invasion of Ukraine, Xi has expressed verbal support for the war and has been purchasing oil from Russia to help finance it. Xi has also not restrained North Korea from sending military equipment – which he easily could do. The Biden administration has been encouraging Xi to discourage Putin, but to no avail. On the critical issue of the War in Ukraine, nothing changed.
On the private sector side, there was no agreement from China to end unfair trade practices, theft of intellectual property and industrial spying. No promise to stop setting up spy operations and “police stations” in the United States. No pushback on China using money and exchange students to influence public opinion and spy. Then there is the issue of Chinese-owned TikTok. Nothing new to report.
In other words, the United States – and by extension, the world democracies – got nothing from the visit. That is not true of China, however. Following the meetings, Blinken made several statements in support of Chinese positions. He declared that the United States recognizes Taiwan as part of China and opposes independence. He declared that the spy balloon issue was “closed” – as long as they did not do it again. There will be no repercussions.
The Blinken meetings have been billed as preliminary to an anticipated meeting between Xi and Biden before the end of the year. If the Blinken meeting was intended to “set the table” for Biden, what is the benefit of a summit? – unless Biden is intending to pick up more money for the family.
(Yes, that is a snide remark, but serves to remind readers of the larger role of the Chinese in buying influence. You can bet that was not on Blinken’s talking points.)
To add insult to injury … at one point, Blinken was kept cooling his heels because of the late arrival of his counterpart. In America, we are habitually late. In China, however, lateness is strategic. It is a cultural signal. (For the record, Xi did the same thing to Putin).
Like Biden’s surrender in Afghanistan … his too-little/too-late policy in Ukraine … and his humiliating request for oil from the Saudi Crown Prince being refused … the outcome of the Blinken trip only makes America look weaker on the world stage among allies and adversaries alike. If Blinken’s trip was the warm-up act for Biden, we should look forward to the Xi/Biden summit with trepidation – not optimism.
So, there ‘tis.