Beware the instagram takes of the Xi-Biden meeting. By KJ – SF Bay Area China Group 11-15-22
The consensus coming out of the press is that the Xi-Biden G20 meeting was positive and beneficial.
Among things noted:
It was long (3 hours and 12 minutes–hence possibly substantial),
It looked congenial (based on the pictures)
The official readouts from the respective sides did not diverge too much (as they have in the past, where US statements were practically mirandized or made you wonder if they were at the same meeting).
The US reaffirmed its 5 Noes (reaffirming, in particular, that it is not seeking to undermine China’s development or seek independence for Taiwan).
GT notes that the US requested the meeting and travelled to the Chinese residence to meet, itself a signal of the US accommodating China. https://www.globaltimes.cn/page/202211/1279524.shtml
The US made de-escalatory comments about NK (China is not responsible for NK’s policy), China is not about to invade Taiwan (as stated by top brass and others), the US commits to the one China policy. AT: https://asiatimes.com/2022/11/biden-xi-lower-the-temperature-in-hours-long-summit/
No nuclear war, and re-opening of military communication channels.
Color me cynical, I differ with these pollyannaish views. The instagrammable images should be analyzed deeper.
(See here, starting 15:30 mark https://sputniknews.com/20221115/biden-and-xi-meet-brics-to-grow-dems-clinch-senate-1104133208.html)
First the US hybrid war on China has three dimensions that are important to remember or consider:
- 3rd offset
COIN is the military doctrine of counterinsurgency that was developed at CNAS for the Afghan and Iraq wars. It is, to this moment, still the official currency across all the forces. It has been described as “Armed social work”. This expresses itself as bipolar behavior: soccer balls during the day, raiding people’s houses at night; Praise and warmth, followed by military actions and preparations. Abuse followed by flowers. It pendulates back and forth, Jekyll & Hyde-like between congeniality and brutality. It is a good-cop-bad-cop routine expanded to global interactions.
The US puts the spin on this in the case of China as “compete and cooperate”.
General.Mattis put it, however, much more concisely and candidly: “be polite….and be prepared to kill”.
Right now, this is the polite part, the flowers and candy part.
The “prepared to kill” is still very much in play (see below).
The other aspect of COIN is the PR battle. COIN is understood as a three-handed PR game, an effort to look and gain legitimacy among third parties. Right now China is doing well (despite US efforts to paint it as a “genocidal” oppressor), because it offers countries development, win-win cooperation, connections, and peace. The US currently offers degrowth, decoupling & sanctions,bloc-forming, and escalation to conflict. This is also affecting the imperial core, where the western European leadership is starting to face legitimacy crises. The US needs to regain some legitimacy, gain some PR territory.
The 3rd offset is the strategy of dispersion, an offset to precision and focused response. (It ties into hybrid war in general, the doctrine that the US is waging war in all “war-fighting domains”), i.e. everywhere, all the time.
Here, it means simply, “Look outside the immediate field of vision”. What’s happening outside the frame?
Here’s some of what I note:
TPA–the Taiwan policy act, designed to turn Taiwan Island into a US garrison and paracolony, on par with SK & Japan, is winging through congress. It will likely pass.
Semiconductor sanctions & CHIPs act, designed to decouple and destroy China’s foundational tech industry, and hence China’s industrial development. This has been referred to as going “nuclear” in the economic war.
Belligerent–and now unending–wargames targeted at China (with NATO (including the Luftwaffe!), Aukus, Japan, Philippines, Korea).
Just before the meeting: Yoon Sukyeol announced two things:
a) that Korea was back on the reservation, in particular with GSOMIA (creating a Pacific “3 eyes” intelligence-sharing grouping against China)
b) the ROK army is doing military exercises in conjunction with JSDF, and with SK troops saluting the rising Sun.
c) SK has just declared its own “Indo-pacific” strategy, which surprise!, is cribbed directly from the US Indo-pacific strategy: I say cribbed, plagiarized, my colleagues suspects that the US is literally writing it for the SK government (which is so incompetent that it kills 156 people in an avoidable accident
The fact is that what the US says, and what it does, are completely opposed. It is not reliable as an interlocutor.
The US is committed, in its ideological DNA, to taking China down– as an Empire with unipolar hegemonic ambitions, it cannot and will not tolerate a challenger–doctrinally and ideologically.. Capital brooks no challenges, certainly not on the scale that China poses.
So why this meeting at this moment?
- China is outclassing the US diplomatically: for example:
a) BRICS: Saudi Arabia joining, would create a real possibility for dedollarization: the 6 R’s: (sorry) the Renminbi, the (Brazilian) Real, the Rupee, the Rouble, the Rand, joined by the (Saudi) Rial would create a powerful basket of currencies that could put real momentum into de-dollarization. US power is three things: Military, Media, and Money. By losing status as the global reserve currency (and SA;s petro-dollar recycling into US treasuries), this creates real vulnerabilities for the US.
b) the SCO and the Samarkand declaration shows China going from strength to strength
c) Xi has shown strength, cohesion, and resolve in the 20th party congress, and other countries are flocking towards China-led initiatives.
- China’s closeness to Russia is worrying, and the US is recalibrating its pressure temporarily–it oes not want to push them closer together until Russia is permanently disabled.
- Europe is struggling and faltering economically and politically. They understand they cannot afford to fight a two front economic war with both Russia and China, as the US seems to want.
The Western European leadership, despite its language, is very uncomfortable with the pace and speed of US aggression against China. Notice Scholz’s recent trip to China. This is why Scholz said “decoupling is not an option”. They do not want to deindustrialize for the benefit of the US.
Some kind of relief is necessary*, and the G-20, in particular China will be asked for support–as they were during the 2008 meltdown. This was the reason the G-20 was formed in the first place. (The G-7, the western ruling elite (+Japan) were no longer capable of pulling the capitalist economy out of its death spiral).
This is a good analysis from PSL on this aspect:
Biden is signaling his desire to maintain the United States’ posture of fundamental hostility to China, but at least rhetorically softening the U.S. position in a nod to other nations that are uncomfortable with the pace of escalation. China’s economy remains deeply integrated in the world market, and even major capitalist powers like France and Germany do not desire a complete breakdown in relations despite their underlying hostility to China’s socialist system. Given the existing balance of forces in world politics, the United States may calculate that a momentary easing of pressure could reduce the likelihood that the alliance between China and Russia will deepen.
The US has a consistent pattern. Make promises and break them–every single one of them. The Chinese are happy to meet and smile. But Wang Yi has said “the relationship is a whole”. No to a la Carte “cooperation”. Taiwan independence and the one China policy are “like fire and water”. They cannot coexist.
China is stating it wants a peaceful and stable world. It wants win-win cooperation, and they note the foundational crises of the world that make that essential.
They are watching the US very carefully. We are not out of the woods yet. Far from it.
(*Tangentially, China’s dynamic zero covid–although tough–has been shown to be the right choice. It now has an oral vaccine, which allows it to open up more.
On the other hand, the US currently is estimated to have 17 Million people with long Covid; collectively they could result in the loss of nearly 3 Trillion dollars of lost productivity. The US cannot sustain this without relief).