And the gloves come off. Only two months ago President Obama stepped off a plane with choreography in hand, welcoming China to the world stage while protecting America’s star status.
“The United States does not seek to contain China,’’ he said in Tokyo before landing in China. “On the contrary, the rise of a strong, prosperous China can be a source of strength for the community of nations.’’
So he says in public.
Privately the White House’s strategy for China doesn’t appear so diplomatic and cooperative. Global supremacy isn’t a race to be tied and neither America nor China truly plan to cross the finish line holding hands. Yesterday exposed feelings more in tune with reality.
Voice of America makes clear from the beginning that Obama expected a harsh Chinese response when he informed Congress of the latest Taiwan arms shipment. So for the “growth” of US-Chinese relations.
He and his officials took immediate cover behind the Taiwan Relations Act, signed by Jimmy Carter in 1979, which calls for America, “to provide Taiwan with arms of a defensive character,” and, “to maintain the capacity of the United States to resist any resort to force or other forms of coercion that would jeopardize the security, or the social or economic system, of the people on Taiwan.”
General James Jones, speaking before the official announcement, said relations with China are of the "utmost importance" and a "very, very high priority."
“We all recognize that there are certain things that our countries will do periodically that may not make everybody completely happy,” he said, “but we are bent on towards a new relationship with China as a rising power in the world and influence on a variety of issues that go beyond arms sales and go beyond military confrontation.”
But the convenience of US law has lost its use and US officials know it. America can’t sit back and say of Taiwan arms, “well, we have to do it.” China views the move as a threat against their hegemony, which it is.
Enter the response.
“The US plan will definitely undermine China-US relations and bring about serious negative impact on exchange and cooperation in major areas between the two countries," said Chinese Vice Minister He Yafei, according to Wang Baodong, a spokesman for the Chinese embassy in Washington. "China strongly urges the US side to fully recognize the gravity of the issue, revoke the erroneous decision on arms sales to Taiwan and stop selling any weapons to Taiwan.”
At this point two superpowers sincerely interested in fostering a mutual relationship and avoiding collision would pause and seek to deescalate tensions. Not the case. Less than 24 hours after China warned of serious consequences over Taiwan - as America anticipated and relishes in secret - the White House launched another attack.
Speaking at a French military academy in Paris, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, probably didn’t hear China’s return fire before it was too late.
"As we move away from the engagement track,” she told her audience in reference to Iran, “which has not produced the result that some had hoped for, and move forward on the pressure and sanctions track, China will be under a lot of pressure to recognize the destabilizing impact that a nuclear-armed Iran would have in the Gulf, from which they receive a significant percentage of their oil supplies.”
Many political statements must be planned in advance given the policy debate itself, securing private agreements, analyzing the aftermath, and perfecting the message. If every politician had to speak extemporaneously on every subject the world would be in complete chaos.
And yet, eventually, diplomacy will have to speed up to information because of this example.
Of course none of this applies to Clinton, nothing would stop her from firing her personal missile. She never misses an opportunity - from Pakistan to Palestine, Thailand (where she revealed a nuclear umbrella on Iran), days ago Nigeria and now China.
Bad diplomacy is the front page of every newspaper on Earth opening with the paragraph: “U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton warned China on Friday it risks diplomatic isolation and disruption to its energy supplies unless it helps keep Iran from developing nuclear weapons.”
A question: who is going to isolate China? That’s good for a laugh and nothing more.
Obama’s strategy towards China doesn’t make a lot of sense. He makes a visit promising unity then is manipulated by Google, stamps the seal on Taiwanese weapons, and the following day threatens to isolate China and disrupt its energy supplies from the Middle East, much of it from Iran diplomatically.
Prepare for China’s own second volley - all this path leads towards is confrontation. Is it inevitable?