European and Asian allies on the one hand. Russia, Iran and North Korea on the other hand. After their confrontation in Alaska, the Americans and the Chinese seek to cement their alliances around breaking point: democracy.
The first contact between China and the United States in the Biden era was followed by a comprehensive deterioration of the relationship between China and the West, especially Europe, which in one way or another maintained contact with Beijing during the era of Donald Trump.
“We are heading towards bipolarity and a new cold war, opposing the good (democracies, the West) and the bad (dictatorships, China, Russia, Iran and North Korea), sums up the Chinese scholar Jean-Pierre Capstan, of the Baptist University in Hong Kong.
“There is a new sacred union of democracies in Xinjiang and Hong Kong and human rights in China (…) and what is new for the United States is that it needs its allies to counterbalance the rise of China’s power,” he notes.
As a symbol, diplomats from 26 countries escorted their Canadian colleague to a Beijing court on Monday, where one of the two Canadians arrested at the end of 2018 was tried behind closed doors a few days after the Chinese Huawei group leader was tried in Canada.
Beijing is seeking support
By placing the defense of freedoms that his predecessor put aside a top American priority, President Joe Biden is successful in his bet on uniting democracies in the face of the Chinese challenge, as independent political scientist Hua Po in Beijing confirms.
If the Americans and their allies have divergent interests towards China, on the other hand, they “agree on the issue of human rights. It is a symbol of solidarity between the United States and its Western allies.”
In contrast, Yang Jiechi, the top Chinese Communist official for diplomacy, attacked US Secretary of State Anthony Blinkin on March 18 in Anchorage, to the delight of nationalist circles in China. “The United States does not represent world public opinion more than western countries,” he said.
Since then, Foreign Minister Wang Yi has held contacts with countries in trouble with the West, starting with the reception of Sergey Lavrov, head of Russian diplomacy, on Monday in southern China.
An opportunity for the two countries to reaffirm that “there is no single model for democracy in their view.”
The minister went on to tour Turkey, Iran and Saudi Arabia, where he received Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s support for Chinese policy in Xinjiang (northwest).
On Saturday, Wang Yi signed in Tehran, with his Iranian counterpart, Mohammad Javad Zarif, a 25-year strategic and trade cooperation agreement between the two countries.
The American side, Joe Biden personally had preceded the Anchorage meeting for a hypothetical summit with India, Japan and Australia, within the framework of the “Quartet”, an informal alliance aimed at balancing the Chinese influence in Asia and the Pacific.
Hua Bo notes that China faces a “multi-faceted encirclement policy” from Washington: strategic, technological and commercial.
In the face of this triple threat, the alliance with Russia, Iran or North Korea is unmatched, he admits.
Meanwhile, Anthony Blinken prepared his first encounter with the Chinese during a tour of Japan and South Korea, Beijing’s immediate neighbors. He followed it up last week in Brussels, where he promised to rebuild the alliance with the European Union against China and Russia.
Meanwhile, the Americans, Europeans, British and Canadians announced sanctions against a handful of high-ranking Chinese officials who have been found responsible for the crackdown on Uyghur Muslims in Xinjiang.
These coordinated sanctions angered Beijing, which took similar measures, explaining that it had no lessons to learn in the field of human rights.
Holocaust, massacres, and enslavement
With history backing it up, Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying reminded Germany of the Holocaust crimes and France of the massacres of Algeria, the Americans and the British of the slave trade and the treatment of Canadians of the indigenous population.
But behind this rhetoric, the Chinese press is also focusing on the positive aspects of the Anchorage meeting, on points that the two powers agreed to cooperate on, such as climate or vaccines, notes urologist Bonnie Glaser of the Washington Center. For International and Strategic Studies (CSIS).
By approaching Russia, Ms. Glaser said, she is responding above all to strengthening the Quartet and “seeks to show that she has friends and other options.”
“But China also clearly indicates that it wants a stable relationship with the United States,” he adds. “The world is not divided into two opposing camps.”
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