Blinken needs to read ‘Don Quixote’ to understand the nature of his temporarily halted mission to get Xi to go against CCP’s interests and push Putin to the negotiating table, writes Prof. Madhav Das Nalapat
It took a hot air balloon to stop US Secretary of State Antony Blinken from embarking on a pilgrimage to Beijing that not just countries in Greater Asia but the Democratic Party’s own voters would have disowned. US Senators belonging to the Republican Party have signed on to a letter warning Secretary of State Antony Blinken about the lack of sufficient and substantive action by the Biden White House on a matter of the highest concern to countries in the Indo-Pacific.
This is the kid glove treatment given to the PRC led by CCP General Secretary Xi Jinping. This is despite his masterminding of aggressive actions by units of the PLA directed against India and Taiwan. In the case of India, there has thus far been silence from the Biden administration not just about how much but whether there will be additional US supply of weapons to India during the next kinetic attack by the PLA on Indian territory.
While US President Donald Trump gave a strong official response to the aggression by the PLA at Galwan in 2020, in the Yangtze fracas that took place barely months ago, all that Biden came up with was the same formulation that Xi Jinping has favoured. This is that the PRC aggression against India “should be settled bilaterally”. In other words, that India is on its own where even kinetic aggression by the PRC is concerned.
President Biden has taken credit for the way in which the cooperation in matters of defence between India and the US has been progressing since Ashton Carter was the Defence Secretary during 2015-17, in the previous administration. Since that period, even the Quadrilateral Security Alliance has been downplayed by Biden in favour of localised alliances between the US, Japan and Australia with countries not in Asia but in Europe. Not that this comes as a surprise. From the time he was in the US Senate, Joe Biden has been a committed Europeanist.
The US President shares this trait with his longtime advisor on foreign policy, Antony Blinken. Those knowing this admittedly pleasant Biden favourite say that to the Secretary, US interests must revolve in the same orbit as the interests of its European partners. Asia, South America and Africa are a much more distant priority in the White House since 2021, as is noticeable from the hypercharged way in which Ukraine is being flooded with weaponry and resources gratis at the cost of substantial chunks of voters in the US who had been promised by Biden in his 2020 Presidential campaign that they would be his primary priority.
Are any of the countries in Asia that have endured loss of sovereignty of territory to China been given the same consideration? None at all, not even countries that have faced PLA efforts at land and air encroachment this year itself, India and Taiwan.
It is not easy to keep secrets in Washington, and those in that city who track diplomatic goings on say that the primary purpose of Blinken’s humbling, hopefully not entirely visit to Xi in his court in Beijing was to persuade the CCP General Secretary to put his thumb on the scales and help get Vladimir Putin to pull out of the Russian-speaking parts of that country that have been taken over by Moscow since the 2014 change of regime from a Russophile to a Russophobe Head of State in Kiev.
Common sense would indicate that Xi has no interest in any except token and cosmetic gestures in so fundamentally altering a situation that serves the interests of the PRC and in particular the PLA so completely. Only a desperate man or someone who has no comprehension of the mind of the top tier of the CCP would have undertaken such a mission, but given his Europeanist blinkers, this is what Blinken hoped would be achieved by his visit.
Just as he did not factor in the damage to trust among democracies in Asia at least to his chaotic withdrawal from Afghanistan in August 2021, President Biden seems oblivious to the effect that such an obvious kowtow by one of his closest associates to Xi Jinping would have had on US credibility as a reliable partner against the expansionist plans and activities of CCP General Secretary Xi Jinping.
Several countries in the periphery of China have suffered the effects of such a policy by the CCP leadership, including a country that had for the longest time been organically connected to the US, the Philippines. Small wonder that behind the politeness by President Marcos to Defence Secretary Lloyd Austin, there was a polite scepticism about US reliability.
It was while Biden was a heartbeat from the White House during the Obama administration that Scarborough Shoals was forcibly taken away from Manila by Beijing, an action that showed that none of President Obama’s tough talk was backed by action where military aggression by China was concerned. At a time when the future of the Indo-Pacific as a location where hegemony by a single power is concerned hangs in the balance, all that a legislator close to Biden, Pramila Jayapal, seems to bother about is buttering up GHQ Rawalpindi by dragging out the so-called Kashmir issue.
Or in other words, get Biden to pressure India to hand over chunks of Kashmir to Pakistan and China. For it has become obvious that GHQ Rawalpindi is as much an auxiliary of the PLA as the LeT or the JeM are auxiliaries of the Pakistan military.
With the consent, sometimes direct and otherwise implicit, of his interlocutors in Beijing, Secretary Blinken would have mouthed the usual homilies about China, which would then have fired back, again in a predictable fashion. As he dusted off this time-worn routine indulged in by US Presidents who cloak their empowerment of the CCP by rhetoric, Blinken’s thoughts would ever have been Ukraine, defined by Europeanist policymakers in Washington as the determinant of the future of Europe.
It is time for those political leaders such as Senator Marco Rubio that are serious about deterring the PRC to ask why thus far, there has not been any trace of Ukraine-style generosity in giving advanced weaponry to either India or Taiwan, the two countries most at risk of a large-scale PLA attack. Or why there has not been any talk by the White House of what (or even whether) sanctions of the kind imposed on Russia would be imposed on China in the event of further PLA aggression into the sea, air and land spaces of Asian countries whose territory Xi publicly covets.
Antony Blinken needs to read “Don Quixote” by Miguel Cervantes, to understand the nature of his temporarily halted mission to get Xi Jinping to go against the CCP’s interests and push Vladimir Putin to the negotiating table to in effect sign a surrender document. On such dreams is present-day US foreign policy based.