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Yellen Bowing in Beijing a Setback For America

Yellen Bowing in Beijing a Setback For America

Secretary of the Treasury Janet Yellen was dispatched to Beijing by the White House to meet with high-ranking Chinese officials.  She follows in the footsteps of Secretary of State Antony Blinken.

Like the Blinken mission, there were no advance announcements of any deliverables – agreements, breakthroughs or specific concessions by China.  The Blinken mission lived up to its progress free billing.  The United States got nothing from China.  Nothing on the spy facility in Cuba or “police stations” in the United States.  No secession of provocative military “close calls.”  No accountability on the Covid Pandemic.  No relinquishment of claims over the China South Sea.  No termination of unfair trade practices.  No restoration of direct military communication.  No help with the Ukraine war.  No nothing

On the other hand, China got a psychological benefit by having Blinken supplicate the United States to a humbling visit.  President Xi Jinping also got Blinken to oppose independence of Taiwan and to confirm to the world that Taiwan belongs to China under America’s One China policy – a policy widely recognized throughout the world.  Blinken declared the issue of the Chinese spy balloon to be closed.  No consequences.

Now cometh Yellen.

The most common media expression as Yellen landed in the Middle Kingdom was “low expectations.”  Since her stated mission was to assure China that the United States does not wish to “decouple” the relationship, we can assume that there would be no harsh measures for China’s bad behavior in many sectors.  There was a stated hope of restoring warmth to the increasingly chilly relationship.  How that would be achieved – and what evidence we might see – is a mystery.  It seems more of a baseless hope – a throw-away line – rather than a real achievable goal.

Now that the Yellen trip is history, we can safely say that nothing appears to have been accomplished.  She had more than 10 hours of discussions with Chinese Premier Li Qiang and Vice premier He Lifeng.

The most significant announcement was Yellen’s commitment to the Chinese/American trade relationship.  She said that the United States has no intention of “decoupling” from the current status quo.  She said that decoupling would have devastating impact on both China and the United States, as well as the world economy – and be “virtually impossible.”  Sounds like that means no significant consequences for the various actions by China to which the United States takes exception.  Nothing beyond toothless verbal complaints.

That conflicts with one of the other issues Yellen said she brought up.  We would take “targeted actions” to protect the national security interests of the United States — but we would be considerate of China’s concerns about any unintended consequences of our actions”.

She told the Chinese that America was “very concerned” about China’s treatment of American companies’ intellectual property and access to the Chinese market.  Those are the same issues which “concerned” the United States when I started going to China on business in 1999.

Yellen said she urged China to increase its funding of climate change issues.  No commitment from China on that one.

Yellen left China saying that the world was big enough for both nations to thrive – and she does not view the China/US relationship as a great power struggle.  That might be a good thing, but only if the other side sees it the same way – which China clearly does not.

Yellen conceded that there was no consensus on any of the key issues.  But she HOPED that her visit would help build a beneficial channel of communication between both sides.  Unfortunately, that channel of communication is a one-way deal.  We express concerns and hope, and the Chinese ignore our concerns and dash our hopes.  

We have a range of issues with China – trade practices, intellectual property, commercial espionage, increased spying, support for Putin’s invasion of Ukraine, territorial claims to the South China Sea and the Straits of Taiwan, the construction of military islands in the South China Sea and a potential invasion of Taiwan, to name a few.  The Yellen and Blinken visits did not gain a single consideration – much less a concession – from China.  

NATO is not as hesitant to call out China.  In a communique produced at the NATO summit in Lithuania, the Alliance said that China’s “stated ambitions and coercive policies challenge our (NATO’s) interests, security and values.”  They accused China of employing “a broad range of political, economic, and military tools to increase its global footprint and project power, while remaining opaque about its strategy, intentions and military build-up,”

The world was watching and unfortunately, the Yellen and the Blinken trips signal weakness on the part of the United States – as did President Biden’s humbling trip to Saudi Arabia to beg for oil.  It was the first bump seen around the world.  All three missions were failures.

Yellen also committed a diplomatic boo-boo.  She has a habit of bobblehead bowing in discussions with Chinese leaders.  While the western culture may see it as a nothing burger, Asian cultures give great meaning to the kowtow.  It is a sign of supplication and weakness.  She did it upon her arrival, but it was most significant when dealing with high level Chinese officials – who did not bend or bow in return.  Those optics were very bad for the United States.

Like Blinken’s trip, the Yellen junket was said to be setting the stage for the anticipated meeting in Beijing between President Biden and President Xi.  We can only hope that apart from all that empty rhetoric coming out of the Blinken and Yellen meetings, there was some private discussion that will lead to a more productive visit by Biden.  Or will he follow suit and express our concerns without any concession on the part of China?  Stay tuned.

So, there ‘tis.

About The Author

Larry Horist

So,there‘tis… The opinions, perspectives and analyses of Larry Horist Larry Horist is a businessman, conservative writer and political strategist with an extensive background in economics and public policy. Clients of his consulting firm have included such conservative icons as Steve Forbes and Milton Friedman. He has served as a consultant to the Nixon White House and travelled the country as a spokesman for President Reagan’s economic reforms. He has testified as an expert witness before numerous legislative bodies, including the U. S. Congress. Horist has lectured and taught courses at numerous colleges and universities, including Harvard, Northwestern, DePaul universities, Hope College and his alma mater, Knox College. He has been a guest on hundreds of public affairs talk shows, and hosted his own program, “Chicago In Sight,” on WIND radio. Horist was a one-time candidate for mayor of Chicago and served as Executive Director of the City Club of Chicago, where he led a successful two-year campaign to save the historic Chicago Theatre from the wrecking ball. An award-winning debater, his insightful and sometimes controversial commentaries appear frequently on the editorial pages of newspapers across the nation. He is praised by readers for his style, substance and sense of humor. According to one reader, Horist is the “new Charles Krauthammer.” He is actively semi-retired in Boca Raton, Florida where he devotes his time to writing. So, there ‘tis is Horist’s signature sign off.


  1. larry Horist

    As a foot note. The Chinese hacked into the US government — including the emails of the Secretary of Commerce. Maybe that was the Chinese versions of opening lines of communication as proposed by Yellen. Of course, it was not the Chinese government, just some anonymous bad actors on a couch in Tianjin. Really? And what is the Biden admission going to do about it? The correct answer is “nothing.”

  2. LMS

    Get this stupid cow out of office. She’s a relic just like Biden and grossly incompetent! What an utter joke this country is to the world, no wonder they laugh! Every other country wouldn’t put up with an administration like this! Disgusting vile people these democrats and RINOs are!

    • frank stetson

      LMS: What a stupid-ass thing to say. You have not one fact to back up your useless rubber of an opinion. I guarantee this woman is smarter, more accomplished, and richer in worldly things than you in your pitiful worthless existence. I don’t mind attacks, but put some teeth in them. Speaking as one of the “disgusting vile people” that share this country with you: FYVM, sit on it, and then rotate……..counterclockwise. (I will let Mr. Horist answer for the RINOs).

      Yellen accomplishments:

      First person ever to act as Secretary of Treasury, Federal Reserve chair, and White House Council of Economic Advisers. First women to hold two of these positions.

      Brown University grad
      PHd econ Yale
      Harvard professor
      London School of Economic faculty
      Brookings Institution fellow
      Professor Emeritus UC Berkley
      Valedictorian and cum laude’s all over the place.

      I have not agreed with Yellen always, have found her “wordsmithing” to be lacking at times, but in no Universe would I be dumb enough to call her stupid. What’s in your wallet, LMS, that makes you smarter than this “stupid cow” as you say? You can’t even come close. I think LMS stands for Loosing My Shit.

      While I have wondered about some of her sound bites, to get through this inflation caused by Trump/Biden giveaways added to covid spending draughts and splurges, without a giant crash appears to be an incredibly smart move. Not that Treasury is responsible, but… Time will tell, but so far, so good.

      And to the matter at hand. I agree, for once, with much of Mr. Horist’s latest rant of a partisan screed variety. The only retort I have is: what did you expect? Mission accomplished? If playing the long ball, both these meetings will set the stage for the future:
      – Create relationships for long-term partnering and success on issues we can work together
      – Set the stage for Biden to bring home some agreements
      – Prepare for the next five years of Biden

      Or we can return to international diplomacy by Tweet like Trump’s partnering with China with his internet jabs. Here’s a sample of Trump “dealing” with China:
      “Remember, it was China’s fault!”
      “China’s rampant theft of Michigan jobs”
      “China has caused great damage to the US and the rest of the world”
      “They have stolen our Intellectual Property at a rate of Hundreds of Billions of Dollars a year,”
      “taking advantage of the United States on Trade, Intellectual Property Theft, and much more” (billions of billons)
      “China is letting us down”
      “China and Europe are playing big currency manipulation game” (wow, all of Europe, eh)
      “They LOVE ripping off America!”
      “China is actually placing propaganda ads in the Des Moines Register”

      I think sending Blinken and Yellen over before Biden’s meeting is an improvement over mindless Twitter rants.

      • Sue

        Dude, you are an idiot. Good grief!

  3. Joseph S. Bruder

    So, we’re going to never talk to the Chinese and just let the tensions rise until everything just blows up? Or are you just pissed off because Yellin bowed to her Chinese counterpart? She’s trying to be polite and respectful, not cause WW3 (although, I might add, bowing is more of a Japanese thing, she probably could have gotten better coaching). She’s an economist, not a trained diplomat, I’d give her a break on this one.

    What do you really expect from her (or the Chinese)? Both sides are playing their cards close to the vest. She told Chinese officials what we’d like to see in their monetary policy, and I’m sure they told her what preferences they have for us. Dialogue is good, but doesn’t have to have an immediate result. It adds up after time. We had 4 years of chaotic confrontation with China during the Trump administration, and now we have to tone it down and try to mend fences.

    You’re looking for excuses to criticize the Biden administration for practicing calm, prudent diplomacy. Do you really want to go back to Trumpian bull-in-a-(literal)-China-shop practices that make the whole world unsafe?