Ukraine War, March 16, 2022: Washington Post op-ed by Chinese Ambassador to U.S. should be applauded, and approach supported by shifts in U.S. policy; P.R.C. is bound by U.N. Charter prohibition of the use of force, even against Taiwan, but don’t even think about independence for Taiwan; Kissinger’s “one country” approach has worked for 50 years; U.S. and China should jointly celebrate 50th anniversary of Shanghai Communique (Updated March 17, 2022)

Developing

Due to rapidly-breaking developments and in order to facilitate readers’ access to the latest dispatches, we are publishing this article as it is being written. please check back for updates and additions.

Dispatches

1) Qin Gang “Chinese ambassador: Where we stand on Ukraine,” Washington Post, March 15, 2022 (3:11 p.m. EDT);

2) “Ukraine War, February 26, 2022: The current fighting; Playing “the China card”–again; Voice of America Russian-language short-wave broadcasts to Russia,” The Trenchant Observer, February 26, 2022;

COMMENTARY

On February 26, 2022, we wrote the following:

U.S. must play “the China card”–again

See,

1) James T. Areddy, “Kissinger Calls for U.S., China to Remain in Dialogue, Wall Street Journal, February 24, 2022 (8:15 pm ET).

Areddy recalls Kissinger’s trip to China in February, 1972, and on the 50th anniversary of that trip, he quotes Kissinger saying (on February 20, 2022) the following:

“We are meeting at a moment when it is not always one of cooperation between China and the United States,” Mr. Kissinger said in his remarks. “I simply want to say that the safety of the world depends on the two most advanced countries, technological countries, to remain in permanent dialogue and to attempt and achieve settlement of their disagreements in a cooperative attitude. Those are the key issues of our times.”

He added, “the key to international order is restrained conduct and peaceful discussion between these two great societies.”

As we wrote on February 26,

The United States needs to change its “pivot toward Asia” strategy, and pivot toward the whole world.

In conclusion, There are two things the Biden administration can do immediately to influence Russia, and Russian public opinion. First, now would be a great time for Biden to hold a ceremony celebrating 50 years of diplomatic relations with China since the 1972 Shanghai Declaration, perhaps with Henry Kissinger participating, and to issue an invitation to Xi Jinping to join him at a summit in Washington, D.C., perhaps at Camp David.

It is time to put aside the emotional approach to China, to focus on furthering U.S. interests, and to take the initiative in trying to improve personal and diplomatic relations.

Secretary of State Anthony Blinken blundered badly in March 2021 at the ministerial meeting with his Chinese counterpart in Anchorage, Alaska, the first high-level meeting of the Biden administration with Chinese officials.  In Anchorage, Blinken sacrificed an excellent opportunity to build personal working relations between not only himself his counterpart but also between officials of both countries at the working level, resorting instead to public recriminations as he played to a domestic audience at home.

This emotional demonstration revealed Blinken to be a lightweight, not steeped in the deeper arts of diplomacy. It also set a negative tone for the relationship between the two countries. Only days later, China joined a common front with Russia against the West.  The timing did not appear to be coincidental.

See,

“China and Russia form common front against the West,” The Trenchant Observer, March 24, 2021.

As we noted in this article,

In Anchorage, Alaska, in the first meeting of its kind in some time between the Chinese Foreign Minister and Secretary of State Anthony Blinken, Blinken made the monumental mistake of grandstanding for domestic opinion, instead of attepting to establish good working relationships with the Chinese. Here, Blinken’s lack of previous day-to-day overseas diplomatic experience may have been a factor in the harshness of his approach, though he has held high-level foreign policy positions in the State Department and the White House.

The consequences of Blinken’s blunder may have been extremely significant. After sizing up the attitude of the United States in Anchorage, China joined a common front against the West with Russia four days later.

This timing was eerily reminiscent of the failed negotiations in August 1939 between France and England, on the one hand, and the Soviet Union, on the other. Shortly after these negotiations failed, Stalin agreed to the Molotov-von Rippentrop Treaty of alliance between Russia and Germany, including its secret annexes on the division of Poland between the two countries. On September 1, 1939 Hitler invaded Poland from the West, and on September 17, 1939 Stalin invaded Poland from the East.

One of Biden’s first big mistakes vis-à-vis China was to adopt a confrontational attitude at the first bi-lateral meeting at the foreign minister level with China.

Biden and Blinken were playing primarily to their domestic audience. The point is not that Biden and Blinken should not have spelled out in detail their criticisms of China. The point, rather, is that this was the wrong time and the wrong place to make these points in angry public recriminations.

To do so in a face-to-face meeting with the Chinese foreign minister and his delegation, in public, may have been particularly offensive,on a personal level, in terms of Chinese culture.

Blinken met with the Chinese in Anchorage on March 18. The common front against the West was announced on March 22, 2022, at a meeting between Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi and Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov.

For an insightful account of Chinene-Russian cooperation against the U.S.and its allies, see,

Piotr Smolar, “La Chine et la Russie opposent un front commun à l’Occident; Ces deux régimes autoritaires, redoutables dans le domaine cyber, sont alliés dans les arènes multilatérales, s’épaulant au nom d’une même lecture des relations internationales,” Le Monde, le 24 Mars 2021 (14h00, mis à jour à 18h44).

An opportunity to correct Blinken’s blunder, and set U.S.-Chinese relations on a positive course

The op-ed by Qin Gang, the Chinese Ambassador to the U.S., should be regarded as a friendly offer of better relations, despite the great differences that exist

Whether Biden with Blinken as the titular head of his foreign policy team can organize such a reorientation, on his own, is doubtful. He will need strong assistance from both Republican and Democratic foreign policy leaders in the Senate, in particular, and also in the House.

A final word of advice to Biden for tomorrow’s and future conversations with Xi Jinping: Extend a hand of friendship and cooperation to China, in working on the resolution of even the most serious differences between the two countries, which are really conversations between two great civilizations.

As Henry Kissinger observed in February 2022, “The key to international order is restrained conduct and peaceful discussion between these two great societies.”

The Trenchant Observer

About the Author

James Rowles
"The Trenchant Observer" is edited and published by James Rowles (aka "The Observer"), an author and international lawyer who has taught International Law, Human Rights, and Comparative Law at major U.S. universities, including Harvard, Brandeis, the University of Pittsburgh, and the University of Kansas. Dr. Rowles is a former staff attorney at the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) of the Organization of American States OAS), in Wasington, D.C., , where he was in charge of Brazil, Haiti, Mexico and the United States, and also worked on complaints from and reports on other countries including Argentina, Chile, Uruguay, El Salvador, Nicaragua, and Guatemala. As an international development expert, he has worked on Rule of Law, Human Rights, and Judicial Reform in a number of countries in Latin America, the Caribbean, Africa, the Middle East, South Asia, and the Russian Federation. In the private sector, Dr. Rowles has worked as an international attorney for a leading national law firm and major global companies, on joint ventures and other matters in a number of countries in Europe (including Russia and the Ukraine), throughout Latin America and the Caribbean, and in Australia, Indonesia, Vietnam, China and Japan. The Trenchant Observer blog provides an unfiltered international perspective for news and opinion on current events, in their historical context, drawing on a daily review of leading German, French, Spanish and English newspapers as well as the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, the Washington Post, and other American newspapers, and on sources in other countries relevant to issues being analyzed. Dr. Rowles speaks fluent English, French, German, Portuguese and Spanish, and also knows other languages. He holds an S.J.D. or Doctor of Juridical Science in International Law from Harvard University, and a Doctor of Law (J.D.) and a Master of the Science of Law (J.S.M.=LL.M.), from Stanford University. As an undergraduate, he received a Bachelor of Arts degree, also from Stanford, where he graduated “With Great Distinction” (summa cum laude) and received the James Birdsall Weter Prize for the best Senior Honors Thesis in History. In addition to having taught as a Lecturer on Law at Harvard Law School, Dr. Rowles has been a Visiting Scholar at Harvard University's Center for International Affairs (CFIA). His fellowships include a Stanford Postdoctoral Fellowship in Law and Development, the Rómulo Gallegos Fellowship in International Human Rights awarded by the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, and a Harvard MacArthur Fellowship in International Peace and Security. Beyond his articles in The Trenchant Observer, he is the author of two books and numerous scholarly articles on subjects of international and comparative law. Currently he is working on a manuscript drawing on some the best articles that have appeared in the blog.

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