The new U.S. administration should stand firm when dealing with Beijing and avoid falling into the communist regime’s crafty “negotiation traps,” a former White House security official has said.
“Don’t fall for a trap that Beijing sets time and again for administration after administration, which is to try to lure the United States into a long, formal, mid-level bottoms-up negotiation,” said former deputy national security adviser Matthew Pottinger in his first public speech since leaving the White House in January.
Pottinger, whose role was central to forging the Trump administration’s China policy, made the remarks during a Feb. 3 panel hosted by Florida International University’s Steven J. Green School of International and Public Affairs.
He said that the former White House cabinet only learned “not to let China draw out the clock” after a year of back and forth negotiations, and after reviewing the previous dialogues of the last two decades in which the United States got “trapped,” leading to the “U.S. trade deficit and our hemorrhaging of intellectual property.”
For about a decade after 2006, the two countries engaged in semi-annual talks, dubbed “Strategic Economic Dialogue,” to resolve economic disputes. But the Trump administration criticized the process for not delivering enough tangible outcomes, and eventually abolished it as the United States shifted toward a hardline approach on communist China.
“It got worse and worse with each successive administration, each successive formal dialogue,” Pottinger said. “So we should be talking on our terms, and we should be speaking with actions.”
Top Chinese officials have, in recent speeches, indicated that the ruling communist party has no intention of changing its plans for China. Yang Jiechi, China’s top foreign policy diplomat, on Feb. 1 told the Biden administration to play by the party’s rules, warning that potential actions on the regime’s handling of Hong Kong, Tibet, and Xinjiang constitute “a red line that must not be crossed.”
Beijing has long claimed the self-ruled island as a renegade province, threatening to “reunify” it with the mainland by force. With Hong Kong now firmly under its grip, the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) is escalating military aggression toward Taiwan, sending dozens of military craft just days after President Joe Biden’s inauguration.
“The people of Taiwan need to understand how significant and dangerous the situation is getting, and that that’s no fault of their leadership. That is all about Beijing, and its appetites and ambitions,” Pottinger said. “The people of Taiwan need to really rally around their leadership and understand that they are going to have to make sacrifices. There are things that they are going to have to do to prepare for war in order to hopefully deter war.”
Speaking at the same conference via pre-recorded video, Sen. Jim Risch (R-Idaho), who chairs the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, called the CCP “our greatest foreign policy challenge for years to come.”
“The CCP’s record of aggression, suppression, and broken commitments should give the United States pause before rushing into signing agreements and pursuing expansive cooperative initiatives” such as a climate deal with Beijing, Risch said.
Pottinger, whose wife is a virologist with years of experience at the U.S. Centers for Disease Control, urged people to revisit a Jan. 15 fact sheet issued by the State Department under the Trump administration, which slammed the CCP’s “deadly obsession with secrecy” around the origin of SARS-CoV-2.
The fact sheet has been “very carefully vetted” by officials across U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, the intelligence leadership, and the White House, he added.
Although the Wuhan Institute of Virology, located in the world’s first COVID-19 hotspot, regularly handles dangerous viruses, it claimed to have “zero infections” among its staff at the outset of the pandemic. But according to the fact sheet, the United States “has reason to believe that several researchers inside the WIV became sick in autumn 2019” with symptoms similar to COVID-19.
On Wednesday, World Health Organization investigators visited the Wuhan lab as a highlight of their mission to probe the origins of the virus outbreak. The Wuhan trip took place after months of delays and lengthy negotiations, with Beijing turning back the team last minute in early January.
The WHO team left the lab after roughly three hours, without speaking to the reporters who were waiting outside.
“Very interesting. Many questions,” said Danish researcher Thea Fischer as the team’s vehicle sped away.