The World Today for June 26, 2023

NEED TO KNOW

Backroom Chats

CHINA

American diplomats claimed that the autocratic president of China, Xi Jinping, had no clue that one of his spy balloons had been shot down over the US in February. As CNN noted, Xi’s potential ignorance of a major international story illustrated a “significant lack of coordination within the Chinese system at a fraught period of China-US relations.”

This insight corroborates strategist Peter Zeihan’s argument that Xi has isolated himself as he has amassed untold amounts of power. To cement his position, he has killed or imprisoned every independent thinker who might tell him the truth or have ideas about how to better lead the country.

Whatever his circumstances, Xi appears to be dead-set on building up China’s power and influence despite what he perceives – rightly or wrongly – as the West seeking to suppress his country’s destiny as a great power. “Xi…seems to sincerely believe that the United States is out to get China,” wrote Foreign Policy magazine. “During his decade in power, anti-American rhetoric seems to have grown blunter with every passing year.”

Echoing claims raised by Russian President Vladimir Putin, Chinese foreign policy thinkers argue that US allies like Australia, Japan, India, and Taiwan now surround China while American administrations enact laws to cut off China’s access to semiconductors and other advanced technology, the New York Times reported. Accordingly, Xi rejects this US-led international framework.

These tensions are one reason why US Secretary of State Antony Blinken recently met with Xi in China. Differences over policies toward Russia and Ukraine, Taiwan, the South China Sea, and other issues compelled Blinken to visit in order to exchange views and speak like adults, opined Washington Post columnist David Ignatius. He added, however, that Beijing has rejected closer military ties between the US and China that would help defuse potential flare-ups between the two nations.

Soon after the summit, though, President Joe Biden inadvertently referred to Xi as a “dictator” who was embarrassed not to know about the downed balloon, highlighting the deep fissures between leaders in Beijing and Washington, reported National Public Radio. A spokesperson for the Chinese Foreign Ministry, meanwhile, described Biden’s comments as a “provocation,” the Guardian added.

Biden also met with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, whose country is trying to sideline China, after Blinken returned from Beijing, noted Reuters. The three men undoubtedly discussed Xi behind his back in the same way that Xi and Putin likely discuss Biden and perhaps Modi, too, when they meet for their get-togethers.

The gossip is better than more tangible aggression.

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