It’s a cliché to claim every setback as the official end of unipolarity, but if there were ever to be a date for historians to mark the televised humiliation and official end of American hegemony, it would be the very public verbal slapping of U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken and National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan by the Chinese ambassador on U.S. soil.
The U.S. and China leveled sharp rebukes of each others’ policies in the first high-level, in-person talks of the Biden administration, with deeply strained relations of the two global rivals on rare public display in Alaska https://t.co/cl3SoVXQmE pic.twitter.com/JAJxufB674
— Reuters (@Reuters) March 19, 2021
What was supposed to be a mild first meeting between the two predominant global powers turned to a virtue-signaling slugfest. The Chinese diplomats predictably humiliated the unprepared and frankly amateurish American side with critical race theory-infused talking points that one could encounter in any western university sponsored by taxpayer money. The event is bound to be played over and over again in hundreds of thousands of TV channels in Asia and Africa.
The meeting that took place in Anchorage, Alaska, was supposed to be a mild matter of the two sides getting to know each other. President Biden wanted to reset relations after the explosive Trump years. The meeting was also supposed to demonstrate the virility and diversity of the American side, compared to the highly meritocratic Chinese side. The person sitting next to Blinken had purple hair in the moment destined to go down in history books.
Blinken started out by criticizing Chinese human rights violations and violations of international law and its own agreements: “‘We will … discuss our deep concerns with actions by China, including in Xinjiang, Hong Kong, Taiwan, cyber attacks on the United States, economic coercion of our allies,’ U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken told his Chinese counterparts in a highly unusual extended back-and-forth in front of cameras,” reports Reuters. “Each of these actions threaten the rules-based order that maintains global stability,” he said.
China’s top diplomat Yang Jiechi responded with a 15-minute speech in Chinese while the U.S. side awaited translation, lashing out over what he said was the United States’ struggling democracy, poor treatment of minorities, and criticizing its foreign and trade policies.
Quite who planned the proceedings remains a question. None of what Blinken said is untrue, but in diplomacy, the biggest mistake is to start first. That gives the opponent chance to prepare and counter-attack in front of the camera.
Richard Nixon, for example, was a master in this art. He allowed Nikita Khrushchev to argue first before countering to point out the flaws of the Soviet system in the infamous “kitchen debate.” Team Blinken was manned (for lack of a better word) by amateurs who grew up under unipolarity, are clearly not used to living in a balance of power, and are only used to lecturing others.
Naturally, the result was a ferocious reply from the Chinese side, accusing the United States of failing in racial justice, and reminding Americans that they are not speaking from a position of strength. It was like watching a slow dissection of a hapless but well-meaning professor. The video, instantly played all over the world, was earth-shattering.
Global Times: "Washington has always twisted the facts. It has been bragging about its allies…it is also blatantly promoting a so-called rules-based international order. Everything Washington talks about is centered on the US, and on white supremacy."https://t.co/jnnxNOFzQH
— Jonathan Cheng (@JChengWSJ) March 21, 2021
Great power competition is the basis of all international relations, in all of history. The actors might change from empires to nation-states, but great powers competing with other great powers is the game that remains the same. It is not a battle between good and evil, but a competition in which you one-up the other side.
Yet today’s entire diplomatic class is brought up believing in post-Cold War end of history unipolarity, so they are more focused on racism and sexism and have forgotten the basic rule of international relations: security starts at home. If the world’s most powerful state cannot restore order in its cities for years and allows tax-funded universities to teach impressionable youths their country is uniquely racist and sexist and that the heteropatriarchy is the source of all evil, they will not win in future international competitions.
Blinken and Sullivan trying to find common ground with China after their public humiliation and blathering about an international rules-based order, while mindless disorder continues in Portland and Seattle and critical race theory and Antifa fester from campuses to cities, seems comical to the rest of the world. The Chinese side quite understandably sees weakness and self-doubt. Like any cynical great power, they are not idealistic and know how to play the audience.
The external threat of China, therefore, is secondary to the internal threat of toxic ideologies within the United States. These ideologies are divisive, traitorous, and anti-American and are hated by allies such as France and Britain.
Blinken frankly didn’t have a chance in Alaska. He was dealt a hard hand by his own political party. Put yourself on the Chinese side. What do you think will be the way to hurt Americans in a way that will be the hardest to counter? By pointing out the self-loathing ideas they teach in American universities. After all, politicians from both U.S. major parties have allowed the idea to fester in higher-education centers that the West, especially the Anglosphere, is uniquely racist, sexist, and evil.
The Chinese and the Russians are simply using the same language and propaganda, and understandably so. The Chinese are even scooping up older, competent males while American companies have mandatory diversity policies, focusing on diversity instead of merit. This is a recipe for utter disaster and would be fatal in a new cold war.
Often the architects of their own destruction are more devastating than imperial adversaries. The humiliation of the American side by the Chinese, using divisive ideas taught at American universities, is just a manifestation of this principle.