The Thriller in the Chiller

The Thriller in the Chiller
The U.S. delegation led by Secretary of State Antony Blinken (C) and flanked by National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan (R), face their Chinese counterparts at the opening session of U.S.-China talks at the Captain Cook Hotel in Anchorage, Alaska, on March 18, 2021. (Frederic J. Brown/Pool via Reuters)
John Mills

It is hard to explain what happened in Anchorage, Alaska between the Americans and the communist Chinese during the meetings held March 18 and 19.

One description, I’m serious and not making this up, said, “Tony Blinken and America Get Pantsed by Communist Chinese Official at Alaska Summit.” If this was not such a serious subject, it would be comical and funny, but this is a serious matter. I do have to admit a vision of Neville Chamberlain getting “Pantsed” by the German Leader during their meetings in 1937–1938 did flash through my mind.

Clearly this is not how previous grand and historical meetings between Great Powers have normally been described (and there were other descriptions even more sophomoric than the one I cited). But these are not normal times.

In response to that previous media reference to the outcome of the meeting, I do offer one from the great philosopher Ron Burgundy who said, “That escalated quickly!” in response to the debacle of the opening session in the series of meetings. The meeting spun out of control from almost the word go. The Communist Chinese showed up to Alaska ready to rumble, the Americans showed up with virtue signaling, finger wagging, and aggressive lecturing.
In short, Anchorage was a belly flop for the West. It was a green light to the CCP that the United States was befuddled with domestic social engineering, abstract diplomatic concepts of world norms of behavior, and had weak-kneed resolve in front of the full-throated Wolf Warrior approach of China. Bad things, very bad things happen when totalitarians see an opening and a greenlight such as what the Chinese saw in Alaska.

How Did We Fumble?

I was and still am cautiously optimistic for the Blinken Team. In many ways they appear to be President Trump and Dr. Peter Navarro with the sharp edges sanded down, or so that’s the way in which they have presented themselves.
I also concur with Gordon Chang’s assessment, “The policies of the Biden administration will not be those of Sec. Blinken.” Chang is pointing out a significant conundrum. We have what appears to be a mostly right-minded policy leader in Secretary Blinken. Unfortunately, he appears to be orthogonally aligned with his boss. These are normally not good situations. In the end, only one position can stand and it’s often the President’s.

What went wrong in the preparation and execution of the event? I think it’s clear that the overall American Delegation was unprepared for the full scale, high energy frontal assault of the CCP Wolf Warrior modus operandi.

The American Delegation should have had their diplomacy spears deployed forward in phalanx formation and been ready for the CCP frontal assault. Phalanxes do not work well against flanking actions but work well against frontal assaults.
All indicators in advance of the meeting pointed to a no compromise stance frontal assault from the CCP. Shame on us for not being in phalanx formation for this one.

I’ve said it a number of times and I don’t know how more clearly to explain this. The CCP apparatus including the Ministry of State Security, People’s Liberation Army, and all extensions of the Civil Military fusion of the CCP read and analyze everything, I repeat everything we publish and say in public.

They analyze it ad nauseum for every possible nuance, indicator, and double triple Clausewitzean/Sun Tzu fake out trickery. I’ve been cornered by CCP operatives at the end of public speaking presentations and the relentless questions, attempting to follow every possible vein of meaning are fatiguing and approaching ridiculous.

But that’s what they do, and we don’t. Unfortunately, our delegations are very busy, inwardly focused on American legacy media talking heads, and so confident of our talking points and positions that we routinely fail to even glance at what the CCP is communicating publicly in advance.

It’s not that difficult to read and listen to what the Chinese publicly say in preparation for major bi-lateral meetings; this is a simple concept. But as Clausewitz essentially said, the simple is often impossible.
The center of gravity of the CCP demands and agenda is simple—they need access to capital, and they need it now. The expectation of the CCP was that President Biden would relent immediately on tariff, trade, entity list, and other matters—which has not happened.
Chang made this connection, saying the CCP window of opportunity is rapidly closing. My interpretation: the CCP is in a corner at home and internationally, they are out of liquidity, and they have already begun to execute their “railway timetables” on the pathway to emboldened confrontation and conflict.
The Japanese realized by 1940 that their window was closing with America and started their “railway timetables” to a showdown with the Western Powers, mainly the United States. A similar situation is occurring in front of our eyes in current times.

How Do We Recover?

What happened in Anchorage was a debacle. We need to be honest. Secretary Blinken did magnificent work to attempt to stand his ground, but it was not enough. The entire Biden Team however needs to regroup and learn from this beat down.

The keys to staring down the CCP aggressiveness are resolve, preparation, and deterrence. The key to these keys is the public messaging and presentation style. This is what Secretary Pompeo was masterfully doing and in many ways Secretary Blinken had telegraphed he would continue, but with perhaps a different demeanor.

The Biden Team needs to not only fully embrace the Trump policies but also the Trump demeanor, as difficult as that is to swallow. The CCP despises weakness and the overly nuanced, over sophisticated, and overly abstract policy references of the Biden Team. This behavior and communication style of the Biden Team needs to be replaced with clear, unambiguous communication. Out with the Chamberlainisms and John F. Kerryisms. In with the Trumpisms.

From this point forward, the Blinken Team (as the direct representative of the president on these matters) needs to fully “take off the gloves” and accelerate aggressively all elements of resolve, preparation, and deterrence.

The messaging needs to be clear that the United States will fully use financial and trade matters as a big stick toward the CCP. The United States still dominates the world’s financial scene, we need to start (or re-start) acting like it, in an unashamed manner.

We need to fully withhold access to the capital markets and aggressively pursue and block any devious end arounds by China, enabled by their Wall Street allies, to escape and evade the Securities and Exchange Commission.

The firm establishment of the “Quad” (India, Japan, Australia, and the United States) as a political, economic, and military alliance needs to be officially codified, with alacrity.

Demonstrative military flights and naval maneuvers need to press and demonstrate a rejection of Chinese claims of airspace and territory. The Indo-Pacific Command Commander needs a great increase in the Indo-Pacific Deterrence Initiative, currently at approximately $4.7 billion for Fiscal Year 2021, it needs to be expanded two or three times this amount, immediately.

And we need an unambiguous announcement, from the President, Taiwan will be defended, asymmetric warfare by China will be met in kind, and the CCP is a trans-national criminal organization that will be blocked at every attempted move. Only by this can we disrupt the pathway to conflict that the CCP has already initiated.

Retired Col. John Mills is a national security professional with service in five eras: Cold War, Peace Dividend, War on Terror, World in Chaos, and now, Great Power Competition. He is the former director of cybersecurity policy, strategy, and international affairs at the Department of Defense. On Gab: @ColonelRETJohn. On Telegram: Daily Missive
Views expressed in this article are opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Epoch Times.
Col. (Ret.) John Mills is a national security professional with service in five eras: Cold War, Peace Dividend, War on Terror, World in Chaos, and now, Great Power Competition. He is the former director of cybersecurity policy, strategy, and international affairs at the Department of Defense. Mr. Mills is a senior fellow at the Center for Security Policy. He is author of “The Nation Will Follow” and “War Against the Deep State.” ColonelRETJohn on Substack, GETTR, and Truth Social
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