On Thursday, US State Department officials met with their Chinese counterparts in Alaska to discuss the future of US-China relations. But by the end of the day, according to Gordon Chang, an expert in US-China policy, the acrimony was apparent, and the Chinese foreign ministry had issued a statement he characterized as “preparing the Chinese people for conflict.”
“The Chinese Foreign Ministry actually issued a statement talking about how there was ‘the strong smell of gunpowder’ after the Alaska meeting,” Chang told The Cats Roundtable Sunday.
According to Chang, the two-day summit in Alaska reconfirmed that Beijing was only interested in dictating “the terms of the relationship going forward” with the US. He called Beijing’s rhetoric “exceedingly dangerous” set to signal to the Chinese people “that they’re prepared for conflict.”
“They rolled into Anchorage not to have meaningful discussions with the Biden administration,” Chang said about China’s foreign minister, Wang Yi, and Beijing’s head diplomat, Yang Jiechi. “They came there to lecture them and to dictate the terms of the relationship going forward and to tell the world that China was the dominant power, not the United States.”
The rising tensions between the superpowers and China’s own aggressive posturing means there are “few scenarios that we can rule out,” according to Chang.
“We’re seeing a militant regime threaten war—and we know from history when those types of ruling groups do this, they often start them,” he told The Cats Roundtable. “They may not intend to—I could very well accept the notion that China is bluffing right now. But nonetheless, they’re creating a dangerous dynamic, because they’re telling the Chinese people that they are prepared to go to war.”
The poor progress at the Alaska summit has coincided with new tensions between the US and Russia, after President Biden characterized Russian President Putin a “killer” this past week.
“Really, the common denominator is that both Putin and Xi Jing Ping are testing Biden,” Chang said, “and I think they’re doing that because they don’t respect him.”
This lack of respect, Chang warned, when “militant leaders don’t respect the leaders of democracies,” would eventually force the US to push back.
The flouting of respect for US leaders by China had it’s trickle down in the region, too. Chang noted the threats pouring out of North Korea on the eve of the US-China Summit, telling The Cats Roundtable it “couldn’t be coincidence,” suggesting that China “may be playing the North Korea card again” in an attempt to get concessions” on strict international sanctions.
But critical question for Chang was how Biden would respond to the rhetoric out of the Kremlin and Beijing. He contrasted the boldness of America’s adversaries in the first months of the Biden administration with their relative quiet when Trump was President.
“I think that President Biden needs to say to the Chinese, in public as well as in private, that the United States will defend our allies and our friends in the region,” Chang told The Cats Roundtable. “We will work more closely with our partners, but we will not permit China to again engage in unacceptable behavior. The Chinese leaders need to hear that from the president of the United States, because they’ve got to respect us. And if they don’t respect us, then this will be a time when history will remember.”
Listen to the interview below