In his regular Washington Post column Josh Rogin laments that President Biden’s initiative to stabilize U. S.-China relations is failing:
The problem is that China’s actions do not match Xi’s words. The Chinese government has responded to the Biden foreign policy team’s repeated outreach attempts with antagonism, while doubling down on its military expansion, economic aggression, domestic atrocities and wholesale disregard for the international community’s legitimate concerns about all of this behavior.
When Secretary of State Antony Blinken met Chinese leaders in Anchorage, they lectured him publicly. When Deputy Secretary of State Wendy Sherman visited China to establish working-level ties, Chinese authorities criticized the United States in a news release before the meeting even ended. Beijing used former secretary of state John F. Kerry’s repeated trips to China to send a clear signal China won’t cooperate on climate change unless the Biden administration reverses every single Trump administration policy it finds objectionable.
I think that the administration’s essay to stabilize our relationship with China has been doomed from the start and Trump’s activities are only a minor component of that. To want to stabilize things both parties must like where matters stand as they are and I don’t honestly believe that either party likes the present state of affairs. Quite to the contrary of what Mr. Rogin suggests I don’t think the Chinese see the United States as a reliable negotiating partner. Why should they? For our part I don’t think we should like any order that the Chinese found worth stabilizing. There’s just no meeting of minds here.
I would add that under a Westphalian order how China handles its strictly internal affairs is completely up to China. Appeals to human rights or international norms are completely irrelevant. And we don’t even honor the Westphalian order but matters today are very different than they were 70 years ago when we set the present international order up to suit ourselves. And we don’t even honor that.
So, which is it to be? A Westphalian order or the post-war international order? Take your pick and be prepared to live with your choice. Or just do as we like and be prepared when the Chinese do the same.