Saturday, March 27, 2021

China sanctions U.S. and Canadian bodies over Xinjiang

 





China sanctions U.S. and Canadian bodies 

over Xinjiang


Article content

BEIJING — China on Saturday imposed sanctions against two American religious rights officials and one Canadian lawmaker in response to sanctions imposed by the United States and Canada over Xinjiang.

Beijing has been pushing back against sanctions imposed by the United States, European Union, Britain and Canada for what they say are rights violations against Uighur Muslims and  Turkic minorities in the western Chinese region of Xinjiang.China will take measures against the chair and vice-chair of the U.S. government’s advisory Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF), Gayle Manchin and Tony Perkins, the foreign ministry said in a statement.



It also sanctioned Canadian member of parliament Michael Chong, vice-chair of parliament’s Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs and International Development (FAAE), as well as the FAAE’s Subcommittee on International Human Rights, which has eight members and this month presented a report https://www.ourcommons.ca/DocumentViewer/en/43-2/SDIR/news-release/11172289 concluding that atrocities had been committed in Xinjiang that constitute crimes against humanity and genocide.


“The Chinese government is firmly determined to safeguard its national sovereignty, security and development interests, and urges the relevant parties to clearly understand the situation and redress their mistakes,” the ministry said.

Tuesday, March 23, 2021

Canada sanctions 4 Chinese officials for human rights abuses in Xinjiang

Canada sanctions 4 Chinese officials for human rights abuses in Xinjiang

Security personnel patrol near the Id Kah Mosque in Kashgar in western China's Xinjiang province in Nov. 2017. Canada has imposed sanctions on four Chinese officials for their involvement in human rights abuses in the region.
Canada joined the United States, the United Kingdom and the European Union today in placing sanctions on Chinese officials suspected of involvement in a years-long campaign of persecution against Uyghurs and other Muslim minorities in China's western Xinjiang province.

In a statement announcing the sanctions, Global Affairs Canada accused the four high-ranking officials of participating in human rights violations in Xinjiang.

The statement said mounting evidence shows the Chinese state is responsible for arbitrarily imprisoning more than one million people on the basis of their religion and ethnicity, and for subjecting them to "political re-education, forced labour, torture and forced sterilization."

China has denied all reports of human rights abuses in the region, claiming that the camps are vocational training centres needed to fight extremism.

"These measure reflect our grave concern with the gross and systematic rights abuses taking place in the region," Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said at an unrelated event in Quebec.

"We will continue to work closely with our international partners to pursue accountability and transparency."

WATCH: Trudeau announces sanctions against Chinese officials

Trudeau announces sanctions against Chinese officials

1 day ago
0:31
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau spoke about the sanctions during a stop in Trois-Rivières, Que. on Monday. 0:31

The sanctions freeze any assets the officials have in Canada. They also ban them from travelling to Canada and Canadian citizens and businesses from providing them with financial services.

The four officials Canada is targeting are:

  • Chen Mingguo, director of the Xinjiang Public Security Bureau.
  • Wang Mingshan, secretary of the political and legal affairs committee in Xinjiang and former director of the Xinjiang Public Security Bureau.


  • Zhu Hailun, former deputy party secretary of the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region.
  • Wang Junzheng, secretary of the party committee of the Xinjiang Production and Construction Corps.
Canada also announced sanctions against the Xinjiang Production and Construction Corps Public Security Bureau, a state-run organization responsible for security and policing.

Unified approach

Britain and the European Union announced sanctions on the same four officials earlier in the day. 

The U.S. Treasury Department also imposed sanctions on Wang Mingshan and Chen, and has previously sanctioned Zhu and Wang Junzheng.

"The evidence of widespread human rights abuses in Xinjiang cannot be ignored," British Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab said.

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken said in a statement that "a united transatlantic response sends a strong signal to those who violate or abuse international human rights, and we will take further actions in co-ordination with likeminded partners."

"We will continue to stand with our allies around the world in calling for an immediate end to the PRC's crimes and for justice for the many victims," Blinken said.

China responded quickly by sanctioning 10 European officials, including European lawmakers.

Residents at the Kashgar city vocational educational training centre attend a Chinese lesson during a government organised visit in Kashgar, Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous Region, China, January 4, 2019. 

A spokesperson for China's foreign ministry said the EU's move was based on "nothing but lies and disinformation" and interferes with China's internal affairs.

"The Chinese side urges the EU side to reflect on itself, face squarely the severity of its mistake and redress it," the spokesperson said in a statement published online.

"It must stop lecturing others on human rights and interfering in their internal affairs. It must end the hypocritical practice of double standards and stop going further down the wrong path. Otherwise, China will resolutely make further reactions."

The statement did not mention Canada, the U.S. or the U.K.

Liberals reluctant to use 'genocide' label

The sanctions come exactly a month after MPs voted to label China's actions in Xinjiang region a "genocide." Liberal cabinet ministers, including Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, abstained from that vote.

The Liberal government has been reluctant to use the term "genocide" to describe Beijing's actions in Xinjiang but it has faced increasing pressure from opposition parties to take a stronger stand on China.

NDP public safety critic Jack Harris said the move is an "important step" to hold China accountable. 

"For months, we have been actively calling on the government of impose coordinated sanctions against China for human rights violations," said Harris. "Now the government needs to work with like minded nations to impose sanctions on China with respect to Hong Kong."

WATCH: Foreign Affairs Minister Marc Garneau says China has to follow international rules and norms

China 'has to play by established rules': Marc Garneau

1 day ago
2:06
"China is a major country and it wants to operate on the world stage. We don't have a problem with that, but it has to play by established rules, including the rule of law," said Foreign Affairs Minister Marc Garneau about the detention of Michael Kovrig, Michael Spavor and China's human rights abuses. 2:06

Conservative Leader Erin O'Toole said the government should follow the lead of the House of Commons committee on foreign affairs, which concluded in an October report that China's policies in Xinjiang amounted to genocide.

"While Conservatives are encouraged that the Trudeau government is finally working with our allies and imposing sanctions on officials responsible for human rights violations, the Trudeau government still refuses to call the atrocities committed against the Uyghurs a genocide," O'Toole said. 

"Now, Conservatives are once again calling on the Trudeau government to follow Parliament's lead by recognizing the Uyghur genocide, working to encourage other allies to do the same, and by putting in place new, more effective measures to ban imports produced with forced Uyghur labour."

Green Party Leader Annamie Paul said today's sanctions fall short of Canada's obligations under international law. Paul called on the government to consider additional multilateral and unilateral actions Canada can take to respond.

"The Green Party of Canada believes that an ongoing genocide is being perpetrated against the Uyghur and other Muslim minorities by the Chinese government. The Green Party hopes that the Prime Minister and his government will acknowledge that fact and take a level action that corresponds to the seriousness of the crime." 

WATCH: Garneau encourages countries around the world to ask questions about China's treatment of Uyghurs

'China will have to realize that it can't sweep it under the carpet': Marc Garneau

1 day ago
2:10
"As more countries join us, China will have to realize that it can't sweep it under the carpet": Foreign Affairs Minister Marc Garneau is encouraging countries around the world to ask questions of China about its treatment of its Muslim minority Uyghur population. 2:10

In an interview airing Monday evening on CBC's Power & Politics, Foreign Affairs Minister Marc Garneau said the government needs to "do [its] homework" before making a determination on whether China's actions constitute genocide.

Garneau called on China to provide impartial experts with "unfettered access" to the region so they can independently examine the situation.

"In the meantime, today's decision sends a very clear signal to China — 'The world is watching you,'" said Garneau. 

You can watch full episodes of Power & Politics on CBC Gem, the CBC's streaming service.

Watch: Canada joins EU in sanctioning China:

Canada joins EU in sanctioning China

1 day ago
4:17
"It is a very important message, that should come across, that not only when smaller countries, but also when the big ones are in question, the violation of human rights is not something the EU will go along with," says Melita Gabric, Ambassador-designate of the EU to Canada. 4:17

Canada has had enough with China, the "Genocide of Uighurs"

 


Canada, the United States, the U.K. and the European Union are imposing sanctions on four officials from China, over the murdering of Uyghur Muslims in that country. It's something Canada has been advocating for -- broad, coordinated, international action to address China's so-called bad behaviour, in this case, over Uyghurs Muslims. As David Akin reports, the sanctions are not in relation to the trial of the two Michaels, who have been detained in China for more than two years. But the new approach from the Biden administration is one factor that has changed compared to past years.

Sunday, March 21, 2021

‘Politics was always in the room.’ WHO mission chief reflects on China trip seeking COVID-19’s origin

 

Peter Ben Embarek (center) and Marion Koopmans (right) say farewell to their Chinese counterpart Liang Wannian (left) after 9 February press conference to discuss the findings of a joint investigation into the pandemic’s origins.

 
AP PHOTO/NG HAN GUAN

‘Politics was always in the room.’ WHO mission chief reflects on China trip seeking COVID-19’s origin

Sciences COVID-19 reporting is supported by the Heising-Simons Foundation.

The World Health Organization (WHO) mission to China to probe the origins of the COVID-19 pandemic had a bumpy start, so it’s perhaps no surprise that the team’s departure from China didn’t go entirely smoothly either. A 9 February press conference in Wuhan to summarize the mission’s findings was widely hailed within China, but criticized elsewhere.

During the press conference, WHO program manager and mission leader Peter Ben Embarek and team member Marion Koopmans praised China’s cooperation during the 4-week investigation. They said it was “extremely unlikely” that SARS-CoV-2 originated in a Chinese laboratory and said the team would not investigate that hypothesis further. But they kept open the possibility that the virus arrived in Wuhan on frozen food, a route promoted aggressively by Chinese media to suggest the virus was imported from elsewhere in the world.

Some journalists and scientists called the event a double win for China and demanded more evidence for the rejection of the lab theory. And on 12 February, WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus appeared to publicly push back against the team, saying, “All hypotheses are on the table” with respect to the pandemic’s origins. Meanwhile, media reports have said WHO team members were disappointed about not getting access to certain data, for instance on Chinese patients with respiratory symptoms who may have been some of the earliest COVID-19 cases.

WHO plans to release a summary report of the mission’s finding as early as next week; a full report will come later.

Science had an hourlong video interview with Ben Embarek on Saturday after his return to Geneva. An epidemiologist and food safety scientist, he has experience both with China—he worked at WHO’s Beijing office between 2009 and 2011—and with coronaviruses, as the head of the agency’s effort to investigate the animal origin of the Middle East respiratory syndrome virus after its emergence in 2012.

Ben Embarek defended the much-debated press conference, explained why the lab escape hypothesis has not been ruled out, and summarized what was learned about when, where, and how SARS-CoV-2 first infected humans. This interview has been edited for brevity and clarity.

Q: What was the most surprising experience during your mission?

A: The whole 4 weeks were a roller coaster of feelings and experiences. The amount of attention from the outside world was very special. Visiting the labs, but also visiting that market that has been closed for a year now, was very important and extremely useful to better understand the environment. Some of the meetings we had with COVID-19 victims and with relatives of victims were also very special.

Q: At Friday’s press conference in Geneva, Tedros seemed to contradict you by saying that with respect to the origins of SARS-CoV-2: “All hypotheses are on the table.” Was it a mistake to call the lab origin hypothesis “extremely unlikely”?

A: No. We first developed a pathway of all the possible ways the virus could be introduced into the human population in late 2019. A lab accident is one hypothesis, another is the direct introduction from an animal host, and the others are different versions of intermediary hosts.

For each hypothesis, we tried to put facts on the table, look at what we had in terms of arguments, and then make an assessment of each. It was already a big step to have Chinese colleagues assess and evaluate such a hypothesis based on what we had on the table, which was not much. Yes, lab accidents do happen around the world; they have happened in the past. The fact that several laboratories of relevance are in and around Wuhan, and are working with coronavirus, is another fact. Beyond that we didn’t have much in terms of looking at that hypothesis as a likely option. 

Q: But what led you to use the “extremely unlikely” label? Did you learn anything that made it less likely?

A: We should not put too much focus on the wording. We were looking at different options. At some point we were thinking: Should we use a ranking, with one being the most unlikely, five the most likely, or should we use colors, or should we find another scale? We ended up with a five-phrase scale: “extremely unlikely,” “unlikely,” “possible,” “likely,” and “very likely.” It’s more an illustration of where these hypotheses are to help us organize our planning of future studies.

I dont think the press conference was a PR win for China. I think the outcome of the mission is a win for the international scientific community.

Peter Ben Embarek, World Health Organization

 

Q: But my question is whether you learned anything new in China. Now that you’ve been there, do you have more reason to say it’s “extremely unlikely” than before?

A: Yes. We had long meetings with the staff of the Wuhan Institute of Virology and three other laboratories in Wuhan. They talked about these claims openly. We discussed: What did you do over the past year to dismiss this claim? What did you yourself develop in terms of argumentations? Did you do audits yourself? Did you look at your records? Did you test your staff? And they explained how they worked and what kind of audit system they had. They had retrospectively tested serum from their staff. They tested samples from early 2019 and from 2020. There were a lot of discussions that we could not have had if we had not traveled to Wuhan. We also did not have evidence provided by outsiders to support any of the claims out there. That could potentially have tipped the balance. What we saw and discussed gave us much more confidence in our assessment. The consensus was that this is an unlikely scenario.

We also had difficulties designing future studies to look into the laboratory claims within our joint group, because if you want to explore such a hypothesis further, you need a different mechanism. You need to do a formal audit, and that’s far beyond what our team is mandated to do or has the tools and capabilities to do. So that was also a reason why we could not start moving forward in our next series of studies into that direction. But the fact that the hypothesis is listed or assessed as extremely unlikely is not the same as if it had been listed or assessed as impossible. We’re not closing the door.

Q: So, it will be investigated further, just not by you and your team?

A: It’s not something we’re going to pursue in the coming weeks and months. But our assessment is out there, and the topic is on the table. This is to me a big achievement, because for the past year it was mission impossible to even discuss it or even put it on the table or on the agenda of any meeting or discussion.

Q: But will someone else investigate?

A: Remember that the report is the outcome of a joint team of Chinese experts and international experts. If others want to pursue that hypothesis, it’s there, it’s being discussed openly and accepted. As I said, this would not be something that this team, or I believe even WHO alone, would be able to move forward on. That would have to be, I believe, a United Nations–wide approach in consultation with member states, if that was something that the international community would want to move forward with.

Q: Would it have been better to project less certainty at the press conference in Wuhan? The way most journalists understood it, the way I understood it, was that this has been ruled out.

A: Let me be clear on this: The fact that we assessed this hypothesis as extremely unlikely doesn’t mean it’s ruled out. … We also state in the report that all these hypothesis assessments will be reviewed on a regular basis. We may pick that one up again if new evidence comes up to make it more likely. It’s work in progress.

Q: Another scenario that you outlined was that the virus was transmitted through frozen food. What is the evidence for that?

A: This scenario is an interesting one because of the findings we made in the Huanan market, which is a wholesale market selling a lot of frozen products and refrigerated products—animal products, meat products, and seafood. And we know that the virus persists for a very long time on frozen products. China has reported over the past months a few instances where they have isolated the virus and positive samples on imported frozen products.

But that’s happening in 2020, at a time where the virus is widely circulating in the world, where there are multiple outbreaks in food factories around the world. It is probably an extremely rare event; we can see that from only a few dozen positive findings in China, out of 1.4 million samples taken so far. It’s potentially possible, so it’s worth exploring. But we have to separate the situation in 2020 with imported goods in China, and the situation in 2019, where that was not a possible route of introduction. There were no widespread outbreaks of COVID-19 in food factories around the world.

There is a much more likely scenario. Some traders at the Huanan market were trading in farmed wild animals—badgers, bamboo rats, rabbits, crocodiles, and many others. Several of these animals are known to be susceptible to SARS [severe acute respiratory syndrome] viruses. Some of them come from farms in provinces where coronaviruses have been isolated from bats: Guangdong Guanxi, Yunnan. Potentially, some of these animals were infected at those farms and then brought the virus into the market.

It is [time] to go back to the suppliers and to the farms and explore what type of species were there. Was there a mix of species? Were new animals introduced to the farms on a regular basis, as new breeding stock or whatever? Did they get supplies of animals from other places? Were there other farms nearby of interest? And of course, doing a lot of testing of all these animals and surroundings and environment.

As to bats: In recent weeks, we’ve had reports new interesting viruses, from Thailand and from Cambodia. We’re also interested in looking at the bat population in a wider area; finding more viruses could help us narrow down the evolutionary pathway of this coronavirus. And also doing more systematic studies on other animal species of interest, in China in particular, that we know are susceptible: minks, raccoon dogs, foxes. There are a number of farming systems that will be of interest to us.

Q: How are you moving forward on this?

A: We’re discussing the next steps, bouncing ideas and strategies between what the Chinese team members would like to do, what we would like to do. But there is agreement on the most logical future studies. We don’t want everybody starting to test millions of animals all over the place because that’s going to waste a lot of resources for no good outcome.

Q: At the press conference you also said it was becoming clearer that there was no widespread transmission of the virus before December 2019. But there have been reports that China did not share all of the data on 92 patients who had flulike symptoms in 2019. (One team member has tweeted that her quotes on that topic were “twisted,” however.) How confident are you that there was no spread of the virus prior to December 2019, what data are still missing, and why?

A: Part of the process of trying to find older cases than early December was to look at data coming out of different surveillance systems. The Chinese colleagues in advance of our arrival identified 72,000 cases from surveillance system for influenza like illness, fever, and pneumonia. In principle, they could be potential COVID cases. So, they tried to apply some kind of logical set of criteria to try to get to a smaller number of cases that would be worth exploring further. They went down to 92 cases. They were looking at a period first of October to December 2019, and there was no clustering in any way among these 92 cases. Then using serological tests [which look for antibodies to past SARS-CoV-2 infections], they managed to test 67 of these 92; the others were either unavailable, could not be traced, or had died. All 67 turned out negative.

We assessed all of this work and suggested further studies. The idea now is to try to use other strategies to better assess these 67 cases or 92 cases. For example, by also doing serological tests on some confirmed cases from December 2019. If those are still positive, that gives better confidence that the 92 are [truly] negative; if some of the confirmed cases are now negative, it puts a question mark on the value of the serological test.

The other thing is that going down from 72,000 down to 92 shows that the criteria were perhaps a bit too stringent. It might be a better idea to revisit the process and find a less stringent set of criteria so maybe we end up at 1000 cases or so and then do the same evaluation.

Q: Several people have said there was a heated debate about this. Why?

A: Because we wanted to go back immediately and look at the 72,000 cases in a different way—discuss together what criteria and process each of the health care facilities had used to go down from 72,000 to 92. So there was a discussion about whether that could be done now, or whether we should wait. It was a standard scientific debate. It’s frustrating, frankly, that we were not able to move quickly forward with new analyses. And don’t forget the conditions were really difficult. We were in quarantine for 4 weeks, couldn’t move easily around, et cetera. Under the conditions, it is not surprising that we had this disagreement. And it’s still on the table. It is still planned for the future, so it’s not out.

Q: Is there any other debate that got similarly heated?

A: In terms of studies, that was the most [heated]. There was, of course, a lot of debate and discussion about the wording in the report, how to phrase the findings, how to phrase the conclusions. And we should not forget that because of all the pressure on these missions from the outside world and within China from other parts of the … system, it was an extremely sensitive issue.

Q: If you take all of this together, what do we know? What’s the most likely scenario for how and when SARS-CoV-2 started to circulate?

A: It’s now clear that during the second half of December [2019] there was wide circulation of the virus in Wuhan. The contribution of the market at that time was not so important anymore because the virus was also circulating elsewhere in the city. That, to me, is a big finding. That was not the picture we had before. The cases outside the market were showing differences in terms of [virus] sequence diversity. Whether that indicates multiple introductions to the city or a single introduction a little bit earlier, followed by spread in different parts of the city, is still unclear. But it all points towards an introduction in the human population in that area in the period October to early December 2019—most probably late November, not so long before the earliest cases were found. But the route of introduction remains a mystery.

Q: You have the eyes of the world on you. You are working in a country that plays by its own rules. Isn’t there a danger that if you concentrate on the science, you end up being politically naïve? Some people have said the Wuhan press conference was basically a public relations (PR) win for the Chinese government.

A: The politics was always in the room with us on the other side of the table. We had anywhere between 30 and 60 Chinese colleagues, and a large number of them were not scientists, not from the public health sector. We know there was huge scrutiny on the scientific group from the other sectors. So, the politics was there constantly. We were not naïve, and I was not naïve about the political environment in which we tried to operate and, let’s face it, that our Chinese counterparts were operating under.

I don’t think the press conference was a PR win for China. I think the outcome of the mission is a win for the international scientific community. We managed to find a way of getting studies done that would otherwise not have been done. The politicization of events has not helped over the past year. But I think we’ve got the best out of it.

Wednesday, March 17, 2021

War With China--Likely

 War With China--Likely 








War Between China and the United States Isn't Inevitable, But It's Likely: An Excerpt From Graham Allison's "Destined for War"

Mar. 05, 2018

Will Presidents Trump and Xi, or their successors, follow in the tragic footsteps of the leaders of Athens and Sparta or Britain and Germany? In his new Gelber Prize-nominated book, Allison says the omens are not good

Two centuries ago, Napoleon warned, “Let China sleep; when she wakes, she will shake the world.” Today China has awakened, and the world is beginning to shake.

Yet many Americans are still in denial about what China’s transformation from agrarian backwater to “the biggest player in the history of the world” means for the United States. What is this book’s Big Idea? In a phrase, Thucydides’s Trap. When a rising power threatens to displace a ruling power, alarm bells should sound: danger ahead. China and the United States are currently on a collision course for war — unless China takes difficult and painful actions to avert it.

As a rapidly ascending China challenges America’s accustomed predominance, these two nations risk falling into a deadly trap first identified by the ancient Greek historian Thucydides. Writing about a war that devastated the two leading city-states of classical Greece two and a half millennia ago, he explained: “It was the rise of Athens and the fear that this instilled in Sparta that made war inevitable.”

That primal insight describes a perilous historical pattern. Reviewing the record of the past five hundred years, the Thucydides’s Trap Project I direct at Harvard has found 16 cases in which a major nation’s rise has disrupted the position of a dominant state. In the most infamous example, an industrial Germany rattled Britain’s established position at the top of the pecking order a century ago. The catastrophic outcome of their competition necessitated a new category of violent conflict: world war. Our research finds that 12 of these rivalries ended in war and four did not — not a comforting ratio for the 21st-century’s most important geopolitical contest.

This is not a book about China. It is about the impact of a rising China on the U.S. and the global order. For seven decades since the Second World War, a rules-based framework led by Washington has defined world order, producing an era without war among great powers. Most people now think of this as normal. Historians call it a rare “Long Peace.” Today, an increasingly powerful China is unraveling this order, throwing into question the peace generations have taken for granted.

In 2015, the Atlantic published “The Thucydides Trap: Are the U.S. and China headed for War?” In that essay I argued that this historical metaphor provides the best lens available for illuminating relations between China and the U.S. today. Since then, the concept has ignited considerable debate. Rather than face the evidence and reflect on the uncomfortable but necessary adjustments both sides might make, policy wonks and presidents alike have constructed a straw man around Thucydides’s claim about “inevitability.”

They have then put a torch to it — arguing that war between Washington and Beijing is not predetermined. At their 2015 summit, Presidents Barack Obama and Xi Jinping discussed the Trap at length. Obama emphasized that despite the structural stress created by China’s rise, “the two countries are capable of managing their disagreements.” At the same time, they acknowledged that, in Xi’s words, “should major countries time and again make the mistakes of strategic miscalculation, they might create such traps for themselves.”

I concur: war between the U.S. and China is not inevitable. Indeed, Thucydides would agree that neither was war between Athens and Sparta. Read in context, it is clear that he meant his claim about inevitability as hyperbole: exaggeration for the purpose of emphasis. The point of Thucydides’s Trap is neither fatalism nor pessimism. Instead, it points us beyond the headlines and regime rhetoric to recognize the tectonic structural stress that Beijing and Washington must master to construct a peaceful relationship.

If Hollywood were making a movie pitting China against the United States on the path to war, central casting could not find two better leading actors than Xi Jinping and Donald Trump. Each personifies his country’s deep aspirations of national greatness. Much as Xi’s appointment as leader of China in 2012 accentuated the role of the rising power, America’s election of Donald Trump in a campaign that vilified China promises a more vigorous response from the ruling power. As personalities, Trump and Xi could not be more different. As protagonists in a struggle to be number one, however, they share portentous similarities. Both:

— Are driven by a common ambition: to make their nation great again.
— Identify the nation ruled by the other as the principal obstacle to their dream.
— Take pride in their own unique leadership capabilities.
— See themselves playing a central role in revitalizing their nation.
— Have announced daunting domestic agendas that call for radical changes.
— Have fired up populist nationalist support to “drain the swamp” of corruption at home and confront attempts by each other to thwart their nation’s historic mission.

Will the impending clash between these two great nations lead to war? Will Presidents Trump and Xi, or their successors, follow in the tragic footsteps of the leaders of Athens and Sparta or Britain and Germany? Or will they find a way to avoid war as effectively as Britain and the U.S. did a century ago or the U.S. and the Soviet Union did through four decades of Cold War? Obviously, no one knows. We can be certain, however, that the dynamic Thucydides identified will intensify in the years ahead.

Denying Thucydides’s Trap does not make it less real. Recognizing it does not mean just accepting whatever happens. We owe it to future generations to face one of history’s most brutal tendencies head on and then do everything we can to defy the odds.

What the US really wants from the China talks

What the US really wants from the China talks

BBC State Department correspondent



Joe Biden makes a foreign policy speech at the State Department in WashingtonIMAGE COPYRIGHTEPA
image captionJoe Biden framed his election as a reset after four years of Donald Trump



March 17 2021


On the day of Donald Trump's big "Stop the Steal" rally outside the White House in January, I spotted a sign that seemed a bit off message: "China for Biden."

Trump's supporters were focused on his claim of massive election fraud. Just down the road they were poised to begin storming the Capitol Building, demanding that the results be overturned.

The white middle-aged woman holding the sign wanted that too, but because "China is America's biggest threat," she told me.

"(Joe) Biden sold us out" to Beijing and only Trump can "protect us," she said, before segueing into a tale about a new world order dominated by China, shored up by eugenics and dark intentions to merge humans with artificial intelligence.

I thought it a remarkable example of how the pandemic, which originated in China, had fed into the thicket of right-wing conspiracy theories that animated the crowd.

Despite her concerns about President Biden, though, there is rare bipartisan conviction that China is a unique threat.

Biden and Xi - Round Two

It's true that Biden was the tip of the spear for Barack Obama's policy of engagement with China, as vice-president investing in a relationship with his then counterpart Xi Jinping.

But his "old friend" Xi has since become a leader criticised in the US for a brand of personal authoritarianism, and Biden has excoriated his government for "coercive and unfair" trade practices.

This month the new Secretary of State Antony Blinken described China as "the only country with the economic, diplomatic, military, and technological power to seriously challenge the stable and open international system."

So a high-level meeting in Alaska on Thursday will be the first chance for the administration to show how it intends to handle what Blinken called "the biggest geopolitical test of the 21st century."

He and the National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan will sit down with China's most senior foreign policy official, Yang Jiechi, and Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi.

Americans in Shanghai watched Biden's inauguration in JanuaryIMAGE COPYRIGHTGETTY IMAGES
image captionAmericans in Shanghai watched Biden's inauguration in January

'Straight talk' and 'Strength'

What do they hope to achieve? This is not being billed as meeting for reaching agreements. It's a meeting for "straight talk" to set the ground rules for the relationship.

Already the Americans have signalled their approach. The new mantra in Washington is to engage China "from a position of strength."

First, the face-to-face encounter will be a low-key, one-off affair. Traditionally the secretary of state visits Japan, South Korea and China on his or her big trips to Asia. This week only Tokyo and Seoul were on the itinerary for Blinken's inaugural international foray. China is relegated to a stopover on the way back.

And the meeting will be on American soil: that was extremely important, said a senior administration official.

The idea is to counter the Chinese perception that the United States is on the decline, says Michael Green, the senior vice-president for Asia and Japan Chair at the Center for Strategic and International Studies.

Chinese commentators like to say that the "winds are blowing to the East." The financial crisis of 2008, the Capitol Hill riot of 2021 and the years of Trump's unilateralism in between have reinforced a view in China that the US has been weakened inside and out.

"This meeting in Alaska is geared to show the Chinese are wrong on all three counts," says Green. "The schoolyard version of this is to say: "You're not so great…yeah you're big, but we like hanging out with our allies, democracies, because they're cool."

Trump and Xi during Trump's visit to ChinaIMAGE COPYRIGHTGETTY IMAGES
image captionTrump and Xi during Trump's visit to China

Alliances are certainly the bedrock of the strategy. President Biden and his top national security officials deliberately met their counterparts from Asia's major powers - India, Australia, Japan and South Korea - virtually or in person, in the weeks leading up to Alaska.

Another aim is to project inner strength.

The "first order of business," said a second senior US official, will be to "explain domestic priorities" in terms of combatting the Coronavirus and reviving the Covid-hit economy.

The next is also to show that the US - and the administration - is internally unified around the idea that the relationship is a strategic competition. That's why for the first time the secretary of state and national security advisor are meeting their counterparts together. And they can point to pending legislation that's taking shape in the senate as a bipartisan effort to curb China's global influence.

What will follow is a long list of concerns, including China's treatment of Uighur Muslims, its quashing of democracy in Hong Kong, its militaristic posture in the South China Sea, and its economic "misbehaviour."

Areas of potential cooperation are also expected to be raised, such as combatting climate change, ending the war in Afghanistan, containing pandemics, as well as dealing with North Korea's nuclear weapons and Iran's nuclear programme.

media captionSingapore's PM is concerned over superpower tensions

"We want a robust and frank conversation with a power that's a main competitor" said a third US official. "We don't want them to be operating under illusions about our tough approach and we want our guys to hear from them."

China looks for a reset

The Chinese are looking for a reset after relations hit rock bottom under Trump. China's Foreign Minister Wang Yi has said that Beijing is ready to reopen "constructive dialogue."

But he's also urged Washington to remove Trump's tariffs on Chinese goods, to stop "suppressing" the Chinese tech sector, and to stop "smearing" the ruling Communist Party.

And he's warned the US to stop interfering in Beijing's internal affairs, a reference to policies in Tibet, Xinjiang, Hong Kong and Taiwan that are redlines for the Chinese.

The Biden administration has dropped Trump's confrontational and erratic approach but maintained many of his policies, and it is wary about the shift in tone China is seeking.

"We're looking for deeds, not words," said the first US official, mentioning an end to "economic coercion" against allies such as Australia as a specific demand before the US China relationship could take steps forward.

"But our expectations are realistic," she added. "It's more understanding over time how do we shape that behaviour change that we seek."

'An historic and fundamental debate'

One change on the American side is an end to the cold war rhetoric used by top Trump officials, who focused on what they saw as the irredeemable nature of the Chinese Communist Party. But President Biden does continue to frame the relationship in ideological, rather than primarily economic, terms.

"I believe we are in the midst of an historic and fundamental debate about the future direction of our world" he wrote in his interim national security strategy, citing the competition between democracy and autocracy.

This is a break from the Obama era, but not a complete one.

"I'm sure Blinken wants to give (the Chinese) a message to take back that can be built on," says Green. "Not an olive branch, but a clear picture of what's happening. And the opportunity down the road to work on issues. That's really the biggest difference…that piece Trump would never have done."