The utter failure of the Anchorage, Alaska, meeting between top U.S. and Chinese diplomats held in March 2021 set the tone for relations going forward. Diplomacy flew out the window at the get-go and did not return. The hostility coming from the Chinese was impossible to miss. It was made immediately and abundantly clear that then-Chinese Director of the Office of the Central Commission for Foreign Affairs Yang Jiechi had neither fear, nor respect, for U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken.
It was especially disturbing because the situation with former President Donald Trump’s Secretary of State Mike Pompeo had been so completely different. In the photographs below, the same Yang who displayed such contempt for Blinken and to the United States of America, is shown smiling and bowing before Pompeo.
Respect for the interlocutor, No one is looked down upon, the basics of diplomacy in fact. pic.twitter.com/UY7KNRuB98
— HΛldrix²™ (@haldrix2) March 21, 2021
Since that time, the weakness exhibited by the Biden administration on the world stage has only emboldened the Chinese and their undisguised goal of surpassing the U.S. as the world’s greatest superpower is moving forward with surprising ease.
Last week, we learned that China had brokered a deal between Iran and Saudi Arabia to restore diplomatic relations. According to the Wall Street Journal:
The deal signals a sharp increase in Beijing’s influence in a region where the U.S. has long been the dominant power broker, and could complicate efforts by the U.S. and Israel to strengthen a regional alliance to confront Tehran as it expands its nuclear program. It comes as the U.S. has been trying to broker a peace deal between Saudi Arabia and Israel, an effort now clouded with uncertainty.
The Journal shows a photo of Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman warmly welcoming Chinese President Xi Jinping to Riyadh last year. Xi, with an uncharacteristically friendly smile on his face, exits his vehicle and extends his hand to MBS. It was a far cry from Biden’s widely-ridiculed fist bump with the Saudi crown prince last July.
At a November 2019 debate, President Joe Biden said he would make Saudi Arabia “pay the price” for the murder of Washington Post contributor Jamal Khashoggi.
I would make it very clear we were not going to, in fact, sell more weapons to them. We were going to, in fact, make them pay the price, and make them, in fact, the pariah that they are. … [there is] very little social redeeming value in the present government in Saudi Arabia.”
I guess MBS remembered those remarks when he refused Biden’s request to increase oil production ahead of last year’s midterm elections.
The Chinese/Russian “no limits” partnership struck on the opening day of the Beijing Olympics in February 2022, 20 days ahead of the Russian invasion of Ukraine, appears to have deepened over the past year.
Xi is scheduled to visit with Russian President Vladimir Putin next week in Moscow. Is he hoping for another diplomatic victory? A brokered end to the war in Ukraine would be a good thing. It would be even better if it were initiated by the United States, but the Biden administration shows no inclination to do so. The BBC reported that China has “not opposed speculation that it could act as an honest broker between Moscow and Kyiv.”
According to the New York Times:
China’s top leader, Xi Jinping, has cast himself as a global statesman, helping Saudi Arabia and Iran broker a deal to restore diplomatic ties while extolling the virtues of “Chinese solutions and wisdom” in solving the world’s biggest security challenges.
Now, Mr. Xi is putting himself at the center of Russia’s war with Ukraine, working to portray himself as a mediator who could cool down the protracted fight.
The Chinese leader is expected to meet in person next week with President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia, and a call with President Volodymyr Zelensky of Ukraine could follow. China has already proposed a peace settlement, though it does not address important details such as whether Russian troops would withdraw. In announcing Mr. Xi’s visit to Russia, a Chinese official on Friday said it was “for the sake of peace.”
At stake for Beijing is its push for legitimacy as leader of an alternative world order to the one dominated by the United States, a role it has sought with growing urgency to resist what Mr. Xi described as Washington’s “containment, encirclement and suppression of China.”
Last month, China’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs published a 12-point peace plan to settle the war in Ukraine. It was light on specifics, but certainly shows Xi’s desire to be recognized as an influential figure on the world stage is moving along according to plan.
It all began with Biden’s disastrous decision to abruptly withdraw U.S. forces from Afghanistan in August 2021. The move came as a thunderbolt, telegraphing Biden’s weakness and incompetence to the world. And he’s done nothing since to alter that perception.