Once again Biden confirms he’s not the intellect he once was. People will remember years ago when Biden was a smart, intelligent and incisive man. He was always easy to disagree with but never easy to dismiss. Now, there is a serious danger whenever he goes off-script. As he left a meeting with Xi Jinping, he did so again by calling Xi Jinping a dictator.
It’s always interesting to see how different countries describe the same meetings. As usual, at APEC, both China and the USA, came out of the meeting with positive views but their views were, as expected, are not the same.
Once again Biden confirms he’s not the intellect he once was. People will remember years ago when Biden was a smart, intelligent and incisive man, albeit an inciteful one too. He was always easy to disagree with but never easy to dismiss. Now, there is a serious danger whenever he goes off-script. As he left a meeting with Xi Jinping, he did so again by calling Xi Jinping a dictator.
China’s own Constitution declares that the country is a “Proletariat Dictatorship” and Xi Jinping is the leader of that self-acknowledged Dictatorship. He knows what he’s doing, has the support of the people he leads and is not only qualified and experienced enough to do it well, he was elected to the position by the National People’s Congress, who themselves are elected. He can, under Article 67 of that Constitution, be removed by the same people, if he doesn’t do the job properly.
So, in the sense that Biden thinks he’s a dictator Biden is wrong, he also once famously referred to his opposite number as a thug but, for all the time I’ve been looking and reading, I’ve never heard a bad word come from Xi’s mouth about another leader. The thugs and dictators and less mature members of these meetings all seem to be on the opposite side of the table to the Chinese leader.
For the purposes of this article, I’ll just refer to two media releases which are both fairly comprehensive and both very different. One is a stream from China’s Xinhua and the other is an article from New York based Associated Press (AP).
Associated Press didn’t mention the most important thing that Xi said; he stated categorically that China has no plans to unseat, or usurp the USA. In other words, China isn’t trying to be No. 1, it’s merely trying to be better than it was – if the USA can keep up with their economic and military power, that won’t bother China at all as long as the US doesn’t attempt to use either of those powers to bring harm to others.
Xinhua reports that China asked that the USA abide by its commitment not to arm Taiwan. AP did not mention this but did say that a “U.S. official” said Xi told Biden that he had no plans to invade the island – this is almost certainly true as Xi has made this very clear over many years that his only plans were to defend the island. The Commitment that Xinhua refers to isn’t made clear but could either be the Reagan Administration commitment not to arm Taiwan made in 1982, or the Carter Administration commitment under the Taiwan Relations Act, which also committed to the One China Policy and wrote into US law that “ the future of Taiwan will be determined by peaceful means”.
As far as China is concerned, the Taiwan issue was the big one but the USA had several other issues it needed to address – Fentanyl was always going to be high on the US agenda, this is a legally made, but controlled, substance in China. Anyone caught making it, exporting it or supplying it without authorisation, faces severe penalties, including execution – the sentence handed down to an American, Mark Swidan, in 2019 (although that sentence was suspended and Swidan remains alive in a Chinese prison). The fact that China might execute Fentanyl dealers was strongly praised by Trump in 2018 but Trump was remarkably quiet when it was an American facing the sentence. China is VERY strict on illegal drugs; the US knows this but continues to blame China for its own problem. but China has done everything asked of it, including the control of production and a registration system for the export of Fentanyl.
The US also sought to improve top level military dialogue. This is vitally important because if an admiral or a general, picks up the phone and talks to their opposite number in China, then accidents which could lead to escalations and even conflict can be avoided.
On both of these important issues, China agreed to reopen communications which were closed when Pelosi visited China. But looking closely at both of these, they are not China’s problems.
If the US could repair the damage within its own society, there would be less people using drugs and they wouldn’t need China’s help. If the ships and planes in, and above, the South China Sea weren’t hovering around China’s sea and air borders, there wouldn’t be a danger of escalation. It’s great that China is willing to help but in both of these cases, the US can fix the problem internally.
A final point in the AP article was left unmentioned by Xinhua, it said that Xi arrived in San Fransisco at a time of economic challenges. Indeed, there are economic challenges the article mentions an ageing population, slower post-Covid recovery and high debts. But none of them are the real reason why China’s recovery is slower than hoped; this has been caused by US restrictions on trade. The AP article mentions but fails to provide a link or citation to “Beijing’s Description of the meeting” which raised this very point.
The article also neglects to mention that China, during and since Covid has grown significantly faster and stronger than the USA which has enough of its own problems that Harvard Business Review comprehensively describes as protectionism. Which they say contributes negatively to the US economy.
Dialogue is good, there was more on Artificial Intelligence, there was discussion on dispute resolution, there was discussion on China being more widely active on the world stage and more “person to person” exchanges.
All of these are good but, if history is a guide, China’s president will return home, he will implement the agreements reached and he will look expectantly forward to some easing of tensions around Taiwan, a reduction of trade restrictions and some sanctions being lifted. But, if history is a guide, he will see more arms sales, more high-level visits, more interference in the running of Taiwan and greater restrictions on Americans doing business with China.
Let’s hope the near future proves history, and me, wrong!