By Fred Fleitz | The Spectator
US delegation meets with Chinese officials in Alaska (Getty)
Why the Biden administration’s meeting with Chinese officials was a debacle.
It goes without saying that when conducting high-level
diplomacy, you don’t insult the other party at a joint press conference before
the negotiations begin. And if you choose to do something so foolish, you must
be ready when the other party retaliates in its response.
It is incredible that secretary of state Antony Blinken
and national security adviser Jake Sullivan did not understand this when they
began talks with their Chinese counterparts in Alaska yesterday. At what was
supposed to be perfunctory two-minute statements by the US and Chinese
delegations to the press before the talks began, Blinken and Sullivan
criticized Chinese activities against the Uighurs, in Hong Kong and Taiwan, as
well as for cyber attacks on the US and economic coercion of US allies. Blinken
said China’s behavior ‘threatens the rules-based order that maintains global
stability’. Sullivan added that ‘China has undertaken an ‘assault on basic
Although Blinken and Sullivan needed to raise these
issues with their Chinese counterparts, doing so publicly at a joint press
conference deeply insulted them and needlessly damaged US-China relations.
Chinese Communist party foreign affairs chief Yang Jiechi and foreign minister
Wang Yi angrily responded with long diatribes against the United States which
included accusing the US of human rights and freedom of the press violations.
The Chinese officials also accused Blinken and Sullivan of being condescending
and staging the Alaska meeting to embarrass China on US territory.
Blinken looked like a deer in the headlights when the
Chinese officials responded. He and Sullivan obviously decided to criticize
China at the press conference to counter Republican criticism that President
Biden is weak on China. This was not diplomacy — it was virtue-signaling for
America’s Biden-lapdog mainstream media. But it is inexplicable that Blinken
and Sullivan were not prepared for a furious response by their Chinese
Making this worse, the US criticism of China did not
include one word on China’s criminal negligence that allowed the coronavirus to
become a dangerous pandemic or the Chinese government’s continuing refusal to
fully cooperate with international investigations of the origins of the virus,
including allowing inspections of the Wuhan biolabs.
President Trump didn’t much care for diplomatic niceties,
but he knew from his career as a dealmaker how to conduct diplomacy with
America’s adversaries. When he appeared before the cameras with officials such
as Xi Jinping and Kim Jong-un, Trump set a cooperative and optimistic tone.
Trump also often bragged about his personal friendships with these leaders. The
former president knew building trust through these personal relationships was
part of what he called the ‘Art of the Deal’ to get these countries to the
negotiating table and to strike deals with them.
The Alaska press event was a debacle that will build a
perception that the US is returning to Jimmy Carter-like incompetence in
foreign policy. It also confirms claims by Biden critics that his foreign
policy team is headed by inept second and third-string Obama retreads.
America’s enemies are watching and planning how to cash
in on President Biden’s weak and incompetent foreign policy.
Fleitz, president of the Center for Security Policy, served in 2018 as
deputy assistant to the president and to the chief of staff of the National
Security Council. He previously held national-security jobs with the CIA, the
DIA, the Department of State and the House Intelligence Committee staff.