Beijing begins to set its own conditions for Washington

МОСКВА, 14 сентября 2021, Институт РУССТРАТ.

The recent visit of the US President’s special envoy for climate John Kerry to China from August 31 to September 3 in early September was widely covered in the second half of August by the Russian media (for example, here). And this is understandable – unofficially, John Kerry, as the former head of the State Department, is a confidant of US President Joe Biden, and the range of competencies entrusted to him goes far beyond the climate agenda alone. Let me remind you that in April 2021, John Kerry “accidentally” met with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov in India.

So, you will not find the results of John Kerry’s negotiations with the Chinese side in the TASS news feed and the main domestic media, except for the REGNUM news agency (an article written by a well-known expert on China, Vladimir Pavlenko). However, this result, in my opinion, largely determines the future of Sino-American relations.

As the Reuters news agency reported, during the talks, John Kerry tried to convey to the Chinese side that “the climate is not ideological, it is not political and it is not a geostrategic weapon”. However, in a video conference call, Chinese State Adviser and Foreign Minister Wang Yi said that Sino-American cooperation in the field of climate cannot be separated from the broader form of Sino-American relations.

“Everyone who met with you will have to spend two weeks in quarantine, but we are ready to pay this price to discuss cooperation with the United States on issues of mutual interest,” Wang told John Kerry, as indicated by Reuters, subsequently removing this quote from its material. Now it can only be found in the retelling of other sources.

During a separate video conference with Kerry, Chinese Vice Premier Han Zheng called on the United States to “create a good atmosphere of cooperation,” Reuters reports, citing Xinhua, to which Kerry replied that the United States is ready to improve ties between the two countries. From this lengthy report by Reuters, it is difficult to imagine a picture of the negotiations that took place, it is necessary to turn to Chinese sources.

An editorial dedicated to this in the government publication Global Times is called “Washington cannot define China-US climate cooperation“. The article frankly says that the expectations of the United States to separate cooperation on the climate issue from other aspects of Sino-American relations seem rather absurd.

“The US wishes to ask China to make new concessions that go beyond the latter’s own promises to coordinate US leadership. As Chinese people often ask, ‘What on earth are you talking about?’.”

The article goes on to point out that the overall US policy towards China was flawed. The US strategic deterrence against China has seriously divided the world and jeopardised China’s long-term security.

According to the editorial board, it is difficult for the entire Chinese society to agree to cooperate in the arrogant logic of the United States regarding China – “competition, cooperation and confrontation”, or to allow the United States to independently determine the political consequences of Chinese-American cooperation on the climate problem. “The US lacks both morality and justice to do so, and it lacks a compelling force to ask China to offer what the US wants”.

“Washington should not have thought that showing a little willingness toward cooperation in its comprehensive containment of Beijing is ‘mercy’ to China <...> No matter in which field the US hopes to cooperate with China and at the same time promote the US benefits, such joint work must be linked with the entire China-US relationship”.

The article ends with the following paragraph: “If the US ever attempts to treat China forcefully in this logic – asking China to keep putting up good shows, ones that are thought good enough to satisfy the US, then the US returns the favor by relaxing tensions – it is totally wrong. This is not the way the Chinese people like to deal with other countries, and we do not want such ‘improvement’ in China-US relations at all.

According to the results of the talks, Kerry, in another article in the Global Times, voiced the position of Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi, who said that cooperation in the field of climate change cannot be separated from other relations between China and the United States. “US should meet China halfway and take positive actions to bring bilateral ties back on the right track,” said Wang.

He also noted: “the reason for worsening relations between China and the US is USstrategic misjudgment of China. Whoever started the trouble should end it. Now the ball is in UScourt.

Another Global Times publication indicates that a member of the politburo of the CPC Central Committee, Yang Jiechi, spoke with John Kerry during a videoconference, who said that for quite a long time, Sino-American relations have faced serious difficulties due to illegal actions of the United States, which interferes in China’s internal affairs and harms China’s interests. Yang said that the confrontation between China and the United States does not benefit anyone, and called on the United States to rationally consider bilateral relations and meet China halfway.

On the American side, Voice of America, according to analysts, described the incident as a diplomatic embarrassment, since Chinese diplomats gave John Kerry regular lectures. Anders Corr, a long-time Sinologist and publisher of the magazine “Political Risk”, said the whole affair is a “joke” at the USexpense, the Chinese Communist Party “is laughing its [expletive] off. You can quote me on that”.

Another typical case occurred on August 31, during a closed meeting on Zoom, organised by the National Committee on Relations between the United States and China. The new Chinese ambassador to the United States, Qin Gang, condemned the current direction of US policy towards China and warned the American leadership against the “catastrophic consequences” of using the “cold war textbook”.

During a question-and-answer session, Evan Medeiros, a professor at Georgetown University who previously served as the director of the National Security Council for China, Taiwan and Mongolia in the Obama administration, asked what steps the US and China can take to improve bilateral relations. To this, Qin Gang replied undiplomatically: “If we cannot resolve our differences, please shut up,” writes National review.

On September 9, it became known that at the initiative of the American side, US President Joe Biden made a phone call to Chinese President Xi Jinping. The Associated Press report indicates that the White House hopes that the two sides will be able to work together on issues of mutual interest, including climate change and preventing a nuclear crisis on the Korean peninsula, despite growing differences.

However, Beijing rejected US pressure and expressed skepticism about the development of relations between the two countries until Biden reduces criticism of China’s domestic issues. “This situation does not meet the basic interests of the two nations,” Jinping said.

Chinese analysts interviewed by the Global Times explained that the phone call, which took place at the request of the United States, highlighted Washington’s growing concern and the need for cooperation with China on key global issues. At the same time, the US should take more action to correct previous mistakes and respect China’s core interests, rather than expecting China to cooperate if it is seen as an adversary.

Interesting details about the phone call were announced by the information website Axios, which often broadcasts reliable insiders from the Joe Biden administration.

According to an anonymous source, Biden wanted to “test the assumption” that negotiations at the “leadership level will be more effective” than those of officials with a lower rank. According to the insider, the previous negotiations were not very fruitful, “and, frankly, we were not very satisfied … with the behaviour of our interlocutors”, an anonymous source said.

Axios writes that when Special Climate Envoy John Kerry visited China, senior Chinese officials strongly rejected the US proposal to consider climate cooperation as a separate issue among other, more controversial issues of bilateral relations.

Worse, they communicated with John Kerry only via video link, sending a “junior official” to a personal meeting with the former Secretary of State. At the same time, these Chinese diplomats had no problems when they personally met with a delegation of the Taliban just a few weeks earlier.

According to an anonymous source, Joe Biden’s goal is to establish a “stable state of affairs” between the US and China, “establishing a fence” so that they have a “tough competitive position” that does not turn into an unintended conflict. Axios points out that, earlier, the White House administration talked about plans for interaction with China, which consist in greater coordination with allies, but the administration has not yet made tangible progress in this direction.

Of course, this is primarily due to China’s economic influence on neighbouring countries. However, I would like to note for myself that few people know that the conflict between South Korea and Japan over the forcing of Korean women to work in brothels for the Japanese military during World War II still prevents the establishment of close relations between the two countries, even for opposing China under the auspices of the United States.

According to Western publications, China has started a deep transformation called the “Cultural Revolution 2.0“. Domestic observers write about what is happening as a “transformation of capitalism”.

It is quite obvious that China has started to break away from the Western development paradigm, focusing on “high-quality” development, the basis of which in the “14th five-year plan” will be investments in human capital. Introducing more and more new regulatory norms in various business sectors at the beginning of 2021, the Chinese leadership was clearly not interested in the level of stock indices. The Hang Seng index has fallen by 15% since the beginning of the year, while US indices continued to grow.

Of course, there are problems, a number of even state-owned companies have defaulted, the largest real estate holding China Evergrande Group is experiencing serious difficulties. China could have poured money into these problems, as they are doing now in Western countries, and no one would have focused attention on this, but the Chinese leadership is deliberately opting to aggravate the situation.

China deliberately sheds excess “swollen fat” from Chinese companies, encourages them to re-finance in China, and focus their attention on the domestic market. In early September, Fang Xinghai, deputy chairman of the Securities Regulatory Commission of China, said that it is necessary to prevent the malicious influence of individual institutions engaged in foreign investment that affect changes in the market as a whole.

The improvement of the internal system of issuing and listing foreign companies and the system of supervision over the listing of enterprises abroad will be organised. The supervisory authority will further strengthen the capacity to monitor the risks of capital inflows and outputs.

On September 2, Xi Jinping announced that the country will create a stock exchange in Beijing where trading will be conducted in yuan. It can be assumed that, if necessary, the Chinese leadership will force key corporations to delist on American exchanges and place themselves on the Beijing one.

Thus, China is trying to destroy the old corporate habits and ties of Chinese companies with the West, to reduce dependence on the United States, in particular. Judging by the results of John Kerry’s visit to China and Joe Biden’s subsequent call to Xi Jinping, we can say that the Chinese leadership is successfully moving in this direction – increasing the country’s political and economic sovereignty.

In fact, China has grown to the point where it is already imposing an agenda for negotiations on the United States and, sooner or later, the United States will have to realise and accept this.