Why Joe Biden’s virtual summit with Xi Jinping may be America’s 'Chamberlain moment'

The proposed talks are nothing but eyewash. The die has already been cast. Ironically, even without the majority of Americans knowing about it

Utpal Kumar November 13, 2021 11:11:03 IST
Why Joe Biden’s virtual summit with Xi Jinping may be America’s 'Chamberlain moment'

United States president Joe Biden is scheduled to hold a virtual summit with Chinese strongman Xi Jinping on Monday. AFP

On Monday, United States president Joe Biden is scheduled to hold a virtual summit with Chinese strongman Xi Jinping, amid tensions over trade, human rights and military activities.

Washington and Beijing have been confronting each other on issues from the origins of COVID-19 to China’s expanding nuclear arsenal. As per Reuters, US officials believe direct engagement with Xi is the best way to prevent the relationship between the world’s two biggest economies from spiraling toward conflict.

The issue, however, isn’t that simple. Nor is the world — democratic world, to be precise — we live in today. It’s a world with no straightforward us-versus-them binary in place, where the enemy is as much out of the gate as he is inside, well-disguised within the system. “Neo war”, as Italian philosopher Umberto Eco likes to call modern-day warfare, does not have a front because of the very nature of capitalism and globalisation.

“In the good old days, the Saracens stayed in their lands overseas, and the Christians in theirs. But today’s Europe is full of Muslims, who speak our languages and study in our schools. If some of them have already taken sides with the fundamentalists of their original countries, imagine what it would be like if a global conflict broke out. It would be the first war in which the enemy not only lives in your own country but also has the right to national health insurance,” writes Eco in Turning Back the Clock: Hot Wars and Media Populism.

It is this complexity of the situation that elicits a set form of reactions in a democracy whenever an act of terror, say Islamist, takes place. Ayaan Hirsi Ali explains the post-terror reaction in her book Heretic, “Speaking in a press conference, President ________ said: ‘We condemn this criminal act of extremists. Their attempt to justify their violent acts in the name of a religion of peace will not, however, succeed. We also condemn with equal force those who would use this atrocity as a pretext for Islamophobic hate crimes.’”

Hirsi Ali asks her readers to put the name of any leader of a functioning democracy which has just witnessed a terror attack, and the response would be similar, she says.

In the world of the old, when two kingdoms fought, two populations fought simultaneously. It was instantly them versus us. Not anymore, especially in vibrant democracies, often the “victim of their own laws”, as a 61-year-old Islamic scholar in Europe told author Pallavi Aiyar. She quotes him as saying in her book Punjabi Parmesan: “It is impossible for them (Europeans) to stop the Muslims now. They have cut off their own arms with all these rights. Human rights and women’s rights and immigrants’ rights.”

When the Muslim cleric was asked what he would have done if he were a European lawmaker, pat came the reply: “I would change their laws to stop all this immigration!”

One must be wondering what all this has to do with the Biden-Xi talks. The fact is the proposed talks are nothing but eyewash. The die has already been cast. Ironically, even without the majority of Americans knowing about it. Just like the fate of some of the European nations more or less sealed, with their cherished democratic institutions already compromised, crippled and infected with Islamist virus. So, the Europe we see today is nothing but the lingering first glimpse of Eurabia — some of the European states like Sweden and England already seem to have given up, others like France are valiantly fighting without much support from outside.

So, what will be the outcome of the Biden-Xi talks? In all likelihood, the meet will be projected as a sort of victory for Biden, with Xi making a concessionary climb-down. The US president will go to his constituency, claiming amid thundering applause how China has been taken care of. The media will be full of reports and articles on how the two big powers were on the brink of a war and how deft diplomacy from Biden and Xi saved the day. It’s a win-win scenario for both — Biden would get a face-saver after the Kabul ignominy, and Xi a much needed cover to hide the pandemic-related stain!

What makes the American scenario complicated is, like the European situation, here too the ‘enemy’ is as much outside as he is inside the gate! In fact, the Dragon breach is so widespread and comprehensive that it would take some real hard measures for the Americans to get things back under their control.

For instance, in May 2019, Biden, then a presidential candidate, ridiculed the idea of China being a “strategic threat” to the US. “China is going to eat our lunch? Come on, man,” he was quoted as saying to a campaign crowd in Iowa City. Biden had for years been soft on China. Authors Clive Hamilton and Mareike Ohlberg bring out an interesting aspect of the Biden worldview in their scintillating book, Hidden Hand: Exposing How the Chinese Communist Party is Reshaping the World, published last year.

They write, “Joe Biden cleaves to the belief, now abandoned by many China scholars and most Washington politicians, that engagement with China will entice it into being a responsible stakeholder. The University of Pennsylvania’s D.C. think tank — named, for him, the Penn Biden Center for Diplomacy and Global Engagement — aims to address threats to the liberal international order, yet China is absent from the threats identified on its website: Russia, climate change and terrorism. Biden has spoken about China’s violation of human rights but still clings to the idea of China’s ‘peaceful rise’.”

What the two authors reveal thereafter is more damning: The hidden Chinese Communist party (CCP) hands shaping Biden’s worldview! “…When Vice President Biden travelled to China in December 2013 on an official trip, his son flew with him on Air Force Two. While Biden senior was engaging in soft diplomacy with China’s leaders, Hunter (Biden) was having other kinds of meetings. Then, ‘less than two weeks after the trip, Hunter’s firm… which he founded with two other businessmen (including John Kerry’s stepson) in June 2013, finalised a deal to open a fund, BHR Partners, whose largest shareholder is the government-run Bank of China, even though he had scant background in private equity’. The Bank of China is owned by the state and controlled by the CCP. Hunter Biden’s exact role in the company is disputed, but one expert has said that his share in it would be worth around $20 million.”

Biden and Kerry aren’t exceptions. The politically powerful Bush family too is believed to be very close to China. So much so that Bush Sr is well respected in China as “an old friend”, an honour reserved for very few Americans, including Henry Kissinger. Does this explain why Bush Sr sent a secret delegation to Beijing to smoothen ties between the two nations in early July 1989, just a month after the bloody Tiananmen Square crackdown? Today the Bush legacy is carried on by Neil, the former President’s third son. Neil chairs the George HW Bush China-US Relations Foundation and in June 2019 he accused the US of using trade barriers “as a political weapon to bully” China. He even termed American democracy “flawed” and said that US politicians are “brainwashing” Americans into seeing China as a problem.

Even Donald Trump, who for all his hot-headedness has some method in his madness, was not spared. His daughter, son-in-law and even a sister, Elizabeth Trump-Grau, were approached to get access to Trump, without much success however.

There could still be some sceptics who may believe China is being targeted and even framed. And it’s understandable: Who would think the US would have so many Trojan Horses in the stable? Like the Islamists of Europe, China has used America’s democratic institutions to infiltrate and weaken the US. Its foot soldiers in America would use pet liberal terms like ‘McCarthyism’, ‘Cold War mentality’, et al, to discredit their opponents.

Alongside, there were concerted attempts to push the Chinese propaganda of its “peaceful rise” and a steady transformation into a “liberal state”, though anyone knowing the CCP would realise that there is no space for peace and liberalism in that ideology. The Americans were made to believe that a market economy would invariably result in free societies, but just the opposite happened. Philip P Pan writes in Out of Mao’s Shadow, “Prosperity allowed the (Chinese) government to reinvent itself, to win friends, and buy allies, and to forestall demands for democratic change.”

Mao and his followers had always been past masters in moulding popular opinions in their favour. In the late 1930s, when Mao was fighting with the Nationalists led by Chiang Kai-shek, he invited Edgar Snow, a well-known American author, to China. Mao left nothing to chance and, as per his biographers Jung Chang and Jon Halliday, “dictated detailed instructions on handling Snow’s visit: ‘Security, secrecy, warmth and red carpet’.” Overwhelmed, Snow in his book, Red Star Over China (1937), created a mythical Mao waging a concerted war against the Japanese and wanting “friendship with America” — a claim that duped many, including in the US Administration.

And one plausible theory suggests that had the Americans not fallen to such a well-orchestrated image makeover, maybe it would have helped Chiang Kai-shek’s forces more resolutely and the fate of China and the world would have been different.

For the CCP, however, ‘friendship’ does not refer to an intimate personal bond, but a strategic relationship that could be used in the time of need. This was evident with the Edgar Show saga in the early 1960s when Mao, facing global criticism for unleashing man-made famine post Cultural Revolution, invited the American writer to China to salvage his image. The result was Snow’s other book, The Other Side of the River, Red China Today (1962), which claimed that there were no starving people in China, though “isolated instances” of starvation might exist. An estimated 30 million people had died of hunger at that time.

So, as Xi Jinping, who is famously moulding himself on Mao, and Biden virtually meet on Monday, it is not a moment to rejoice. It may be America’s Chamberlain moment. It may be another of the CCP stratagem: One step back, two steps forward. So, what will Xi do? He, in all likelihood, will take a concessionary position. Biden will happily grab that opportunity to take this “victory” home, telling his people how he could snub the Chinese!

In reality, however, nothing changes. If anything, it gives the Chinese the option to choose the timing of the war, if ever. That’s the beauty of communist subterfuge: The loser doesn’t realise it’s over till it’s all over.

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