A Lesson in Myopia and Incompetence
Has anyone got a corkscrew?
The USA State Department has recently published its summary of the talks in China between its deputy Secretary of State Sherman and "PRC officials". From this press release a few observations can be made. It is sufficiently short that I shall quote it in entirety. The bracketed notes are mine:
The below is attributable to Spokesperson Ned Price:
Deputy Secretary of State Wendy Sherman traveled to the People’s Republic of China for meetings with State Councilor and Foreign Minister Wang Yi and other PRC officials from July 25-26 . The Deputy Secretary expressed the United States’ sincere condolences for the lives lost in the devastating floods in Henan Province this week. The Deputy Secretary and State Councilor Wang had a frank and open discussion about a range of issues, demonstrating the importance of maintaining open lines of communication between our two countries . They discussed ways to set terms for responsible management of the U.S-China relationship . The Deputy Secretary underscored that the United States welcomes the stiff competition between our countries—and that we intend to continue to strengthen our own competitive hand—but that we do not seek conflict with the PRC.
The Deputy Secretary raised concerns in private – as we have in public – about a range of PRC actions that run counter to our values and interests and those of our allies and partners, and that undermine the international rules-based order . In particular, she raised our concerns about human rights, including Beijing’s anti-democratic crackdown in Hong Kong; the ongoing genocide and crimes against humanity in Xinjiang; abuses in Tibet; and the curtailing of media access and freedom of the press . She also spoke about our concerns about Beijing’s conduct in cyberspace; across the Taiwan Strait; and in the East and South China Seas .
The Deputy Secretary also raised the cases of American and Canadian citizens detained in the PRC or under exit bans and reminded PRC officials that people are not bargaining chips. The Deputy Secretary reiterated concerns about the PRC’s unwillingness to cooperate with the World Health Organization and allow a second phase investigation in the PRC into COVID-19’s origins . At the same time, the Deputy Secretary affirmed the importance of cooperation in areas of global interest, such as the climate crisis, counternarcotics, nonproliferation, and regional concerns including DPRK, Iran, Afghanistan, and Burma .
Direct Comments on the Above
These correspond to the numbered sentences bracketed:
This is a directly misleading lie. By protocol, the under/deputy Secretary of State had discussions with the Chinese equivalent Vice Foreign Minister Xie Feng. The Chinese Foreign minister Wang Yi was nice enough to meet, once, with Sherman but no "discussions" were held between them. This is not a good way to start a of summary of a diplomatic meeting. It antagonizes your interlocutors.
A "frank and open" discussion means continuous disagreement, as can also be noted by the fact that no agreements are announced. Misrepresenting the representatives involved in the dialogue is not a good way of "maintaining open lines of communication".
What the hell is "ways to set terms" for continued dialogue? It seems clear that the USA delegation are not versed in matters diplomatic. There are well established protocols for diplomacy that have been honed over centuries; stupidity, hubris or both?
"values" and "rules-based order" are key terms which shall be explored in more detail below
This entire sentence of "human rights", "crackdown", "genocide", "crimes against humanity", "abuses", "curtailing media access" and "freedom of the press" shall also get a full section of their own below. It is diplomatically outrageous.
"also" !?? OMG, a potential cause of war is an afterthought?
The "origins of COVID-19" is a pure PR blame game and China's response has moved from the equivalent of "do you really want to do this?" to "you opened Pandora's Box" which shall also be expanded upon below.
Sherman "affirmed the importance of cooperation" ... whilst completely undermining any capacity for it.
Values and RuBIO
"Values" are not a thing; they are amorphous and changeable. They have no place in diplomacy. This really is another Pandora's Box that I do not think the Chinese will stoop to opening. Their simple counter could be "our, and our European trading partners’, values include our citizens having universal free health care and free education, while your policies prevent your citizens from these things which we consider fundamental values of any enlightened society". The Russian’s have a new 5th generation fighter for sale … what was it called?
The "rules-based international order" (which I have acronym'd to 'RuBIO') is just as amorphous as "values". It is not a "thing". An excellent article on this was recently issued by Sergey Lavrov.
To his excellent analysis I add this: the advantage of laws is that the weak and powerful are meant to be equal before them. International Law gives opportunity for weaker nations to petition the wider international community for redress of grievances. RuBIO just allows to strong to oppress them without redress, having only media as a response mechanism.
Most of these claims relate to China's internal policies, and as a sovereign nation they have complete leeway, excepting their commitments to international treaties (back to law again). Lets have a little "whataboutism". How do the peoples of Iraq, Syria or Afghanistan feel about the USA's commitment to "human rights"? As for "crackdown" how do members of various civil groups in the USA, say BLM, feel about the use of government forces against their right to protest? I didn't see any tear gas being used in Hong Kong during the protests. In Portland, you could not even see through the clouds of "banned for use in war" chemical weapons being used on their own civilians (see Sources).
The "genocide" claim is outrageous. The claims first brought by then Sec. of State Pompeo were based on a single source, a German evangelical christian, which have been shown to be very dubious in methodology by outlets such as The Grayzone. Their continuation is a pure "human rights abuse" PR campaign which the USA's regime change operators like the CIA offshoot the "National Endowment for Democracy" (NED) repeatedly use to foment insurrection. What is true is that China does have a problem in Xinjiang with insurrectionists. They are not entering the national parliament with little to no arms and wandering around doing a bit of looting as happened to the USA on 2021-01-06. They are armed militants who have been involved at least in the Syria proxy-war. It is a difficult and delicate situation for China, and likely that the USA has had a hand in its creation.
The "curtailing of media access" is laughably hypocritical. The USA president's spokesperson has just called for complete social media banning for people expressing opinion which the government does not like, and the USA are keeping this generation's most prominent English language, possible all languages, journalist Mr Assange in a maximum security prison in Britain.
After all of the above dissembling the USA delegation does an "also" on the most important issue for discussion, the risk of military mishap in the waters around China upon which it heavily depends for its economy. The USA "freedom of navigation" exercises are clearly a trip-wire. China's construction of military facilities in the Spratley Islands are a cause for concern. However, Uncle Shmuel is doing what it does sailing around with warships and not engaging in international organisations and supporting negotiations between parties.
I see equal blame all around on the Spratley Islands, and China is the cause of the dispute. However, do not forget the island chains around China with USA military bases on them. The USA is still constructing more of them. Pots and kettles and all that.
Origins of COVID-19
I hate this topic. It is mired in uncertainty. I will say that I think that pursing an "origin story" is a fool's errand, and a political punching bag. It will not help anyone deal with the pandemic or improve their handling of it. It is a pure blame-game.
There are credible reports of cases of Sars-CoV-2 "COVID-19" type symptoms in Europe, particularly France, months before China announced the outbreak in Wuhan. There are multiple reports from multiple countries' medical records.
I repeat, I consider this a complete waste-of-time media-circus. In time, all will become clear as researchers get into it. I am confident that the story is complex. There are two likely sources, one is zoonotic, the other is military biological research which many, many countries do. Expect to see a lot of "Fort Detrick" and "Wuhan Research Laboratory" in the news with little to no evidence to support any story.
This is horrible. I can understand the Chinese being sick of the USA listing demands the throwing around undefinable terms like "values", and responding with their own "list of demands".
A few things are needed. Firstly, the USA has to come to terms with the China-Russia alliance. It is here to stay for the foreseeable future, and the two combined are a new counter to their hegemonic influence. This makes negotiation all the more important. The "unipolar moment" is gone, and the sooner the USA wakes up to this the better.
Alexander Mercouris in a recent video summarised a moment soon after Putin's rise in the severely troubled Russian Federation. I'll paraphrase him, as he was paraphrasing history. I found it instructive:
Putin brings together all the oligarchs who had been making plenty of filthy lucre during the looting of Russia following the dissolution of the USSR. He gives them a choice. You can either take all of your money and get out of Russia, or you can stay and be involved in rebuilding this country with the government.
I would like to add that he said "choose wisely", but I feel that it would have been verbose. Some oligarchs chose path one, and others path two. Many of the path one people chose London as their chosen place and bought football teams or whatever. Others chose to remain and participate in elevating Russia out of the extreme trouble in which it had found itself.
I think a similar tactic could be useful for the USA. Their political system is rife with corruption, and their bureaucracy is weak. They lack skilled diplomats (I hope I have proven this) and strategic thinkers. Conversely, while the USA have left their post of Ambassador to China vacant for 9 months, a month after the departure of China’s Ambassador to the USA they have filled it with a seasoned diplomat, showing the level of importance they place in the position. Global Times gave a description of the new Ambassador Qin Gang, including this paragraph:
Before his nomination, Qin, 55, had served as Chinese vice foreign minister since 2018, and has held a number of important roles since joining the Foreign Ministry in 1988. He previously served as Minister of the Chinese Embassy in the UK and Director-General of the Information Department and the Protocol Department of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. He has accompanied Chinese President Xi Jinping on many overseas trips in the past few years.
So, China have just sent a 3 year Vice Foreign Minister to the USA as their Ambassador, while the corresponding USA post remains unfilled, though I believe they have identified a candidate.
The USA citizenry needs diplomats and strategic thinkers now. They “also” need a government by, for and of the people.
Deputy Secretary Sherman’s Visit to the People’s Republic of China, USA State Department press release
“The Law, the Rights and the Rules”, Russian Federation Minister for Foreign Affairs
Tear gas deployed as federal officers, protesters clash in Portland, KGW News
Jeju Naval Base Between the People and the National Security, Center for Security Policy Studies, George Mason University
Genetic Study Shows COVID-19 Was in France Weeks Before The First Case Was Reported, AMÉLIE BOTTOLLIER-DEPOIS, AFP 5 MAY 2020
US' tough line on China behind China's choice of diplomatic veteran Qin Gang as new ambassador: expert, Global Times staff reporters
The Police - Message In A Bottle, Vevo