BIDEN’S CONCILIATORY CHINA POLICY WILL DO MORE HARM THAN GOOD
The 20th Asian Security Summit was held in Singapore June 2-4. US Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin spoke at the conference on June 3. Just before Austin’s presentation, a Chinese guided-missile destroyer twice cut across the bow of the US guided-missile destroyer USS Chung-Hoon in the Taiwan Strait, forcing the latter to slow down to avoid a possible collision. According to the U.S. Indo-Pacific Command, the Chinese destroyer overtook the Chung-Hoon on its port side then twice veered across its bow and came within a distance of some 150 yards at one point. The American destroyer was transiting north in the international waters of the strait with the Canadian frigate HMCS Montreal.
This wasn’t the first time the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) has behaved recklessly. As recently as May 26, a PLA J-16 fighter flew 400 feet directly in front of a US reconnaissance plane in international air space over the South China Sea. The U.S. In do-Pacific Command protested against this “unnecessarily aggressive maneuver” which forced its RC-135 to fly through the wake turbulence of the Chinese jet.
Austin delivered a keynote at the plenary session of the summit on Saturday against this backdrop, followed the next day by one by Chinese Defense Minister and State Councilor Li Shangfu, who spoke on “China’s New Security Initiatives.” The media reported as if Austin and Li were engaged in a heated blame game face to face, but there actually was no meaningful dialogue between them during the summit beyond briefly exchanging greetings. Notably, their addresses struck a sharp contrast between reason and emotion, Li’s constituting a fiercely impassioned accusation of the US.
Austin, whose spoke on “United States’ Leadership in the Indo-Pacific,” spent much time analyzing the geopolitical situation today, touching on the Taiwan issue toward the end of his presentation, in which he emphasized that the US remains “deeply committed to preserving the status quo in the strait, consistent with our longstanding one-China policy…we are determined to maintain peace and stability across the Taiwan Strait.” Explaining that the US “does not seek a new Cold War,” as conflict in the strait “would be devastating,” Austin stressed the importance of “open lines of communication with the People’s Republic of China—especially between our defense and military leaders,” adding:
“I am deeply concerned that the PRC has been unwilling to engage more seriously on better mechanisms for crisis management between our two militaries…Great powers must be beacons of transparency and responsibility.”
Throughout his address and the Q&A session that followed, Austin remained poised and restrained, refraining from unduly criticizing China. As regards China’s rapid expansion of its nuclear arsenal and a possible attack on Taiwan, Austin repeatedly emphasized that “conflict is neither imminent nor inevitable” and stressed that the US had “no intention of creating an ‘Asian NATO.’”
Relentless Provocations by Chinese Defense Minister
In contrast, Li’s address was fiercely anti-US. As the New York Times reported, Li’s posture apparently reflected “an increasingly confident Beijing.” He was relentlessly provocative from the outset, claiming:1) “A Cold War mentality is now resurgent, greatly increasing security risks…”; 2) “President Xi Jinping has proposed the Global Security Initiative” and “we should not ignore that the Asia-Pacific faces unprecedented security challengers”; 3) “Who is disrupting peace in the region? What are the root causes of chaos and instability?”; and 4) “Some country has incited color revolutions and proxy wars in different regions, created chaos and turbulence, and just walked away, leaving a mess behind.” He was clearly referring to the US when he said “some country.”
After boasting that China has cultivated “win-win” relations with a host of nations worldwide based on the spirit of the UN and international law, Li referred to Taiwan, proclaiming:
“Taiwan is an internal affair of China, which is a primary and indisputable fact. Taiwan is China’s, and how to resolve the Taiwan question is a matter for the Chinese to decide…Over 180 countries have entered diplomatic ties with China based on a commitment of abiding by the One China principle…Who is undermining stability across the Taiwan Strait? I think the answer is clear. The Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) authorities in Taiwan deny the 1992 consensus and have continuously pushed for incremental Taiwan independence.”
As regards any promoting of Taiwan’s independence, Li twice warned: “If anyone dares try to separate Taiwan from China, the Chinese military will not hesitate for a second.”
Li concluded his address by stating that China “seeks to develop a new type of ‘major-country relationship with the US.’” This idea has remained a dream for China since 2008, when it first proposed that the Pacific Ocean be divided up at Hawaii into two spheres of influence, with China taking the western half and the US the eastern half. Xi Jinping proposed this to President Barak Obama twice, and Obama almost accepted this outrageous proposal.
In the Q&A session, Li was asked to comment on the provocative acts by PLA ships and aircraft referred to earlier in this column. The moderator put the question mildly:
“There were questions on the floor about maneuvers that took place recently at sea and in the air, where perhaps Chinese vessels and aircraft are thought to have come too close to others operating in international waters or in international airspace. Do you have anything to say in response?”
A perfectly neutral and fair question, but Li spouted off belligerently:
“Why did all those incidents happen in areas near China, not in areas near other countries? China’s naval vessels or fighter jets would not take such high-handed actions in areas near other countries. To truly prevent such incidents in the future…the best way is for other countries to not take such actions around other countries’ territories… What is the point of going there? For China, we always say, take good care of your own vessels, your fighter jets, take good care of your own territorial airspace and waters. If that is the case, then I do not think there will be future problems. Thank you.”
Li obviously got into a temper and blurted out his honest feelings, losing control of himself. That Li made such stunning remarks at an international conference is proof that he absolutely lacks an understanding of how important words are in international politics. The fact that a person like him, who completely fails to behave rationally in the international area, is leading the PLA is very scary.
China’s Ferocious Criticism of America
The US has previous proposed more than a dozen high-level and nearly 10 working level meetings with China, but Beijing has turned all of them down. The US side proposed a meeting with Austin this time around in Singapore but the Chinese side turned it down.
Amid the Shangri-la Dialogue, the US government revealed that CIA Director William Burns, who is said to be President Joe Biden’s most trusted aide, visited China in May. Biden trusts Burns so much that last August he tried to have him discourage then House Speaker Nancy Pelosi from visiting Taiwan.
At about the same time of Burns’ China visit, Biden’s top national security advisor Jake Sullivan was in Vienna May 10-12, meeting with top Chinese diplomat Wang Yi. On June 2, Sullivan stated that the US “does not believe it needs to increase the size of its own nuclear arsenal in order to deter the combined forces of Russia, China and other rivals” and emphasized that the US is willing to discuss nuclear weapons control with Russia “without conditions.”
Daniel Kritenbrink, Assistant Secretary of State for East Asian and Pacific Affairs, is currently on a visit to China and New Zealand (June 4-10) to discuss “key issues in the bilateral relationships.”
A “thaw” in US-China relations is in progress on various fronts. In Singapore Li made his confrontational remarks about the US possibly because China knows America’s “weaknesses.” The same logic may have prompted the PLA’s reckless acts in the Strait of Taiwan and in the airspace over the South China Sea. All this is because the Biden administration, which badly desires another US-China summit, is taking a posture seemingly too conciliatory toward Beijing. The more conciliatorily the US pleads with China, the more demanding China will get, compelling the US to pull back. A conciliatory posture is taboo in dealing with China, which only believes in power. Isn’t it about time for a member of the democratic world to warn Biden that if America becomes too conciliatory toward China, this will be a big problem for Japan and the rest of the Western world? I believe Japan, based on its more than 2,000 years of intimate interchange with China, is best qualified to do this. In the best interest of Japan and the rest of the free world, I believe it is incumbent on Prime Minister Fumio Kishida to sound a friendly alarm to the Biden administration as soon as possible.
(Translated from “Renaissance Japan” column no. 1,052 in the June 15, 2023 issue of The Weekly Shincho)