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Reset to rivalry: China and the West drift further apart

11 Comments
By Patrick BAERT
A high-level U.S.-China meeting in Anchorage last month quickly descended into mud-slinging Photo: POOL/AFP

It only took one meeting for hopes of a reset in U.S.-China relations under a Biden presidency to evaporate -- instead alliances are fast forming on either side of an old dividing line: democracy.

The mood music ahead of the mid-March meeting in the Alaskan town of Anchorage between the two countries' top diplomats was upbeat, but their meeting quickly collapsed into mud-slinging in a pattern that has not let up since.

Instead, the U.S. has cozied up to its 'Quad' allies in China's backyard -- Japan, India and Australia -- while cajoling the EU, UK and Canada into aiming sanctions at Chinese officials over their treatment of Muslim minorities in the Xinjiang region.

China has swung back with tit-for-tat sanctions of its own against several European Union and UK lawmakers, while sealing deals with Iran and reaffirming friendships with Russia and North Korea.

That has opened up a chasm between Beijing and the West, one increasingly explained in ideological terms but framed by bigger fears of competition over tech, trade and defense.

"We are heading towards a bipolar order and a new Cold War between the 'good guys' and the 'bad guys'," said Jean-Pierre Cabestan, political science professor at Hong Kong Baptist University.

Biden is hankering after allies to counterbalance China's rise, a departure from the unilateral actions and trade wars of the Trump era, with human rights and democracy emerging as galvanizing causes for the new anti-Beijing bloc.

"There is a new sacred union of democracies on (the issues of) Xinjiang, Hong Kong, human rights in China," Cabestan said.

On Tuesday, Secretary of State Anthony Blinken again labelled China's treatment of its Uighur population a "genocide" and vowed to rally allies to the defense of human rights.

But the Biden administration's retread of the traditional ground of 'freedom' has deeper aims for democracies challenged by China, said Hua Po, an independent Beijing-based political analyst.

Even if the U.S. and their allies have divergent interests, "they agree on the question of human rights. It is a symbol of solidarity," Hua said, amounting to a "multifaceted policy of encirclement" on the strategic, technological and commercial fronts.

In the first face-to-face meeting between China and U.S. diplomats on March 18 in Anchorage, Alaska, civilities quickly fell aside.

China's top diplomat Yang Jiechi furiously attacked U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken, saying the United States "does not represent international public opinion, and neither does the Western world."

Foreign minister Wang Yi has since embarked on a frenzy of friend-making, largely with countries also at loggerheads with the West and the U.S. in particular.

Russian foreign minister Sergey Lavrov was received in China last Monday in a meeting which saw both countries agree that "there is no single model for democracy".

Wang followed up with a tour of Turkey, Iran and Saudi Arabia, where he received Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman's support for China's policies in the Xinjiang region, where it has been accused of detaining over a million Uighur Muslim people.

On Saturday, Wang signed a 25-year strategic and commercial cooperation pact between China and Iran with his Iranian counterpart Mohammad Javad Zarif.

"Beijing is demonstrating that it has friends and other options," said Bonnie Glaser, Senior Adviser for Asia at the Washington Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS).

On the U.S. side, the Anchorage talks followed a virtual summit Biden held with India, Australia and Japan under the "Quad" framework, an informal alliance intended to counterbalance China's influence in the Asia-Pacific.

Blinken continued his diplomatic charm offensive in Brussels, where he promised to rebuild the U.S. alliance with the EU against China and Russia.

At the same time, the U.S., EU, Britain and Canada announced co-ordinated sanctions against a handful of senior Chinese officials deemed responsible for rights abuses in Xinjiang.

These sanctions provoked the fury of Beijing, which took similar measures and then supported a boycott of several western clothing brands, saying that it had no lessons to learn in the area of human rights.

The collapse in relations has seen China's diplomats launch indignant -- and at times bizarre -- attacks on their rivals.

Foreign ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying has in turn reminded Germany of the crimes of the Holocaust, France of its massacres in Algeria, the U.S. and UK of the horrors of the slave trade and Canada of its treatment of Indigenous people.

But behind the angst-ridden rhetoric, redemptive notes from the Anchorage meeting have flickered on Chinese state media.

And one expert said there remain hopes for a potential rapprochement over larger shared interests such as climate change and vaccines.

"China is clearly signalling that it wants a stable US-China relationship," CSIS' Glaser said.

© 2021 AFP

©2021 GPlusMedia Inc.


11 Comments
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Muslim and Islamic nations should join together in voicing their protests against the clampdowns and genocide of Uighurs in Xinjiang, but they aren’t and instead they praise China. Something is amiss.

We don’t hear a word of criticism from Saudi Arabia, UAE, Turkey, Iran, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Malaysia and Indonesia on the human rights violations. Foreign ministers of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) commended China’s efforts “in providing care to its Muslim citizens” and looked “forward to further cooperation between the OIC and the People’s Republic of China” in a resolution drew up at an OIC summit.

Is it because of money and exporting oil to China? The Belt Road Initiative? The move shouldn’t be asking us to stop buying cheap goods from China. What difference will it make if we stop shopping at the 100 yen shop and buying anything made in China meanwhile billion dollar projects are being carried out?

For countries that prohibit charging interests in banking, how can money and cooperation with a country that has torn down mosques, removed Muslim crescents from burial sites, and confiscated prayer mats and Qurans to start with, be justified and be more important than the Islamic faith?

6 ( +7 / -1 )

@ quercetum, look at how the Saudis, UAE, Turks, Iran, Pakistan treat their own people and you see the answer. The Turks especially are genocidal thugs, having butchered first the Armenians and more recently the slow motion genocide of the Kurds. The governments of these nations are birds of a feather.

The US, EU, Japan and Australia should impose a 100% trade and travel embargo on China. I would even deny overflight permission to Chinese owned airlines and prohibit Chinese built ships and aircraft from entering ports, airports or territorial waters and airspace (good for South Korean and Japanese shipyards). It would gut their economy overnight. They make a lot of expensive consumer goods, not just cheap housewares but TV, air conditioners, major appliances, computers, power equipment, phones, auto parts plus they are the source of magnets for the world (necessary for electric motors and many other things), etc. Boycott their goods and it will collapse their economy very quickly. When doing so make it clear that if the CCP deposes Xi Jinping, ends the suppression of the Uyghurs and Tibetans, restores the independence of Hong Kong and returns to the better international/trade behavior seen during the administration of his predecessor Hu Jintao then the west will reconsider the embargo.

8 ( +8 / -0 )

Trump rocked the boat and now the Chinese have rocked it further.

3 ( +3 / -0 )

Trump rocked the boat and now the Chinese have rocked it further.

Especially when we were being hosed by China, now we are being hosed again.

-1 ( +0 / -1 )

It’s nice to see the president working our alliances for assistance with Beijing instead of mouthing off on n Twitter and ceding power to China on the international stage.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

while sealing deals with Iran and reaffirming friendships with Russia and North Korea.

Very interesting. I feel sad about Iran being such an outcast country. They have a great history as the Persian Empire and I would love to visit and meet the people. But for now they are subjugated by fanatics.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

It’s nice to see the president working our alliances for assistance with Beijing instead of mouthing off on n Twitter and ceding power to China on the international stage.

AKA: appeasing and capitulating to them, why would they not be happy? But yeah, the Chinese never respected weakness so....

-1 ( +0 / -1 )

AKA: appeasing and capitulating to them, why would they not be happy? But yeah, the Chinese never respected weakness so....

Waving the bs flag. Please provide examples of US "capitulation" to China. If this is true it should not be hard for you to do. Be specific and tell us what the US should have done. Tell us why bringing allies on board weakens the US.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

I would love to see the USA get along peacefully with every nation on Earth, but dictators have as their prime motivation keeping in power, not getting along with their neighbors. So, I would hope that the US does not overreact to provocations, while also not under reacting.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

The US, EU, Japan and Australia should impose a 100% trade and travel embargo on China. I would even deny overflight permission to Chinese owned airlines and prohibit Chinese built ships and aircraft from entering ports, airports or territorial waters and airspace (good for South Korean and Japanese shipyards). It would gut their economy overnight. They make a lot of expensive consumer goods, not just cheap housewares but TV, air conditioners, major appliances, computers, power equipment, phones, auto parts plus they are the source of magnets for the world (necessary for electric motors and many other things), etc. Boycott their goods and it will collapse their economy very quickly. When doing so make it clear that if the CCP deposes Xi Jinping, ends the suppression of the Uyghurs and Tibetans, restores the independence of Hong Kong and returns to the better international/trade behavior seen during the administration of his predecessor Hu Jintao then the west will reconsider the embargo.

BEST suggestion I have heard all week!

The US should strengthen its alliances with the EU and further develop the 5 eyes agreements in terms of more trade and custom control, military and political alliance. If the 5 eyes and the EU team up economically, politically and militarily, China Russia and Iran will be crushed (metaphorically speaking)

Lets make it happen.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Waving the bs flag. Please provide examples of US "capitulation" to China.

No BS just the truth. Fantastic read and on point.

https://www.spectator.com.au/2021/01/how-will-we-feel-about-that-nice-mr-biden-when-china-next-rattles-the-sabre/

If this is true it should not be hard for you to do.

Never is.

Be specific

Always am.

and tell us what the US should have done. Tell us why bringing allies on board weakens the US.

Exactly what Trump was doing, putting America first, call their bluff as for Europe, they're definitely not going to rock the boat when it comes to China and Russia, this is why dependency is a giant cancer and Trump at least figured that out and the Chinese despised him for that.

https://www.nationalreview.com/2019/10/corporate-america-behavior-towards-china-endangers-democracy/

-2 ( +0 / -2 )

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