For the first time in seven months, President Joe Biden had a phone call with Chinese President Xi Jinping. A readout from the White House indicated it was “a broad, strategic discussion in which they discussed areas where our interests converge, and areas where our interests, values, and perspectives diverge.” The rest of the readout was hardly more specific.
The Biden administration has spoken in broad strokes about its plans to deal with Beijing — a "whole-of-government approach," lots of coordination with allies — but has made little tangible headway thus far. Officials say they're still reviewing their China strategy.
— Jonathan Swan (@jonathanvswan) September 10, 2021
Axios reporter Jonathan Swan read “Between the lines” though.
In his article, Swan cited a senior administration official who said that Biden had requested the call “not seeking specific outcomes or agreements” but to “have a broad and strategic discussion about how to manage the competition between the United States and China.”
The details: The call ran for around 90 minutes and since they were talking late into the evening, Biden sat in the Treaty Room in the White House residence, according to the same senior administration official, speaking shortly after the call.
- The official described the tone of the call as “familiar,” “respectful” and “candid.” They discussed the Biden administration’s complaint that Chinese officials have been “playing for the press” rather than engaging seriously in negotiations, the official said.
- Biden sought to explain U.S. actions towards China “in a way that [is] not misinterpreted as…somehow trying to sort of undermine Beijing in particular ways.”
- Biden is expected to reveal soon what he will do with the tariffs that former President Trump placed on Chinese imports. The two leaders discussed economic issues on the call but “there wasn’t a particular ask [about tariffs] from President Xi,” the senior official said.
The official, who remains anonymous also indicated that “lower-level engagements [between Chinese and U.S. officials] have not been very fruitful. And, candidly, we’ve not been very satisfied … with our interlocutors’ behavior.”
As Swan highlighted, and as Townhall has reported in the past, Chinese officials have rejected calls from the United States, including from Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin. North Korea hasn’t been too keen either.
And Swan didn’t hold back, either. “Confidants say he feels he has an almost unique ability to shape events through his deep relationships with world leaders. But he’s got little to show for it so far with China.”
One might argue it’s a “unique ability” for the worst.
Here’s where reading “between the lines” really comes in, with original emphasis:
Between the lines: The official said that “lower-level engagements [between Chinese and U.S. officials] have not been very fruitful. And, candidly, we’ve not been very satisfied … with our interlocutors’ behavior.”
- Top Chinese officials have snubbed and lectured top Biden aides, and Beijing has used Biden’s botched withdrawal from Afghanistan as a propaganda coup — to elevate doubts about the competence and staying power of liberal democracies in general, and the U.S. in particular.
- When climate envoy John Kerry visited China last week, senior Chinese officials emphatically rejected Biden’s proposal to deal with climate cooperation as a freestanding issue, apart from other, more contentious matters.
- Worse, they would only meet speak with Kerry by video call, sending a junior official to meet the former secretary of state. (These Chinese officials had no problem, however, meeting a Taliban delegation in person just weeks earlier).
- This follows the March summit in Alaska, where top Chinese officials hectored Secretary of State Antony Blinken and national security adviser Jake Sullivan in front of the news cameras — breaking with agreed-upon protocol.
Swan puts it in parenthesis, but it’s a pretty huge deal that China is willing to do for the Taliban what they’re not willing to do for us. Matt already warned last week that China has made its way into Afghanistan. It’s not looking good for the United States, especially when Landon warned earlier this month about how China refers to the Taliban as a “trustworthy friend.”
Author: Rebecca Downs
Source: Town Hall: Reporter Notices Something About US-China Relations