US Lawmakers Urge Biden Officials to Stay Tough on China During Upcoming Talks

March 12, 2021 Updated: March 13, 2021

TAIPEI, Taiwan—U.S. Lawmakers are calling on Secretary of State Antony Blinken and National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan to be tough on Beijing when they meet with Chinese officials in Alaska next week.

“Communist China is America’s greatest national security threat,” Sen. Rick Scott (R-Fla.) said, according to a March 11 statement. “General Secretary Xi [Jinping] knows President Biden is weak on China and wants nothing more than to appease the Chinese Communist Party (CCP).”

Blinken and Sullivan are scheduled to meet with two top Chinese officials—China’s Foreign Minister Wang Yi, and the top CCP official in charge of foreign affairs, Yang Jiechi—in Anchorage, Alaska, on March 18.  The meeting is the first high-level in-person meeting between the two nations since President Joe Biden took office on Jan. 20.

Scott added: “General Secretary Xi is leading a genocidal campaign against the Uyghurs, systemically stripping civil liberties from Hong Kongers and harassing and intimidating the people of Taiwan.”

“Secretary Blinken and National Security Adviser Sullivan need to make clear that the United States will not waver in its commitment to human rights and the protection of our national security,” he said.

White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said on Thursday that the two U.S. officials would not hold back on discussing concerns with the Chinese diplomats, “whether it’s on Taiwan, or … efforts to push back democracy in Hong Kong, or on concerns we have about the economic relationship.” Psaki added Beijing’s genocide of Uyghur Muslims in the Xinjiang region will also be raised.

Scott is not the only U.S. lawmaker to voice concerns about the upcoming talks.

Rep. Michael McCaul (R-Texas), the lead Republican on the House Foreign Affairs Committee, said that Hong Kong must be on the top of the U.S. agenda, following a decision by China’s rubber-stamp legislature this week to approve a draft plan to change Hong Kong’s electoral system.

“When they meet next week, I strongly urge Secretary Blinken and NSA Sullivan to remind their CCP counterparts they will not get away with crushing Hong Kong’s freedom and democracy,” stated McCaul according to a statement.

The draft decision will further cement Beijing’s control over the territory by reducing Hong Kong’s democratic representation and pave the way for only “patriots” to govern the city.

U.K. Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab and Blinken have both condemned Beijing’s recent moves on the city.

“New limits on political participation and democratic representation decimate democratic institutions in HK and run counter to PRC [People’s Republic of China] international commitments” Blinken wrote on Twitter on Thursday.

The Meeting 

Experts told The Epoch Times that Beijing and Washington won’t be able to resolve their differences in the upcoming talks.

Soong Hseik-wen, a professor at the Institute of Strategic and International Affairs (ISIA) of Taiwan’s National Chung Cheng University (NCCU), said that Beijing wants to use the talks to ease tensions with the United States, so it could have a four-year reprieve to deal with problems caused in part by former President Donald Trump’s tough-on-China policies.

The Trump administration took a range of hardline actions targeting the CCP on multiple fronts, from its human rights abuses to theft of American research and technology to military aggression in the South China Sea.

For instance, federal authorities have zeroed-in on Chinese state-sponsored recruitment plans which U.S. officials say allow Beijing to steal American intellectual property or violate U.S. export controls. A number of Chinese researchers working in the United States have been prosecuted for hiding these Beijing-backed plans, such as the Thousand Talents Program.

A reprieve would also be needed for Beijing to deal with its domestic problems, including political instability, a declining GDP, and a real estate bubble, according to Soong. The professor is also the founder of ISIA and former dean of NCCU’s Center for the Humanities and Social Sciences.

Soong said he believed the two sides will talk about a number of issues, including Hong Kong, Taiwan, Xinjiang, Tibet, the South China Sea, and the United States’ restrictions on semiconductors to China. However, Soong explained that the two sides won’t come to any agreement on any of these issues.

China is heavily dependent on foreign semiconductors—tiny chips that power everything from cellphones to missiles. The Trump administration imposed sanctions on Chinese tech giant Huawei that prevented it from buying U.S. components including chips, crippling its smartphone business. Chinese chipmaker SMIC has also been hit with U.S. sanctions.

Soong predicted that the Biden administration will continue to “block and deter” challenges posed by China in technology fields.

Meanwhile, the professor expected the two sides to come out of the talks reaching consensus on a few issues, such climate change and cooperation on vaccines to fight the pandemic.

Biden’s decision to rejoin the Paris Climate accord has drawn criticism from Republicans and analysts, who fear it may be used by Beijing as a “bargaining chip” to extract U.S. concessions in other areas not related to climate change.  Critics have also decried Biden’s re-engagement with the United Nations Human Rights Council and rejoining the World Health Organization as moves that ultimately benefit Beijing.

The cooperation on COVID-19 will be limited to vaccines, Soong said, as the two sides will not be able to reach an agreement on other related issues, such as the origin of the virus and Beijing’s accountability for the pandemic due to its initial coverup of the outbreak.

The U.S.-China trade deal, signed by the two sides in January 2020, could also be another topic of discussion at the meeting, according to Soong. So far, China has fallen short on its pledges in the agreement. Beijing had agreed to buy an additional $200 billion worth of U.S. goods and services in 2020 and 2021, compared to 2017 levels.

“After the talks, China will maintain a friendly relationship with the United States on the surface. However, both nations will set their own agenda, pitting the two sides on a more confrontational future,” Soong concluded.

Tzeng Wei-feng, an assistant professor at the Graduate Institute of China Studies of Taiwan’s Tamkang University, told The Epoch Times in an email that Beijing sees the upcoming talk as a way to defuse tensions so that it may continue its “socialist modernization” at home.

More importantly, the CCP sees the easing of bilateral relations as something good for the 20th National People’s Congress set to be held next year, according to Tzeng.

The CCP’s top leadership will be reshuffled at the 20th National People’s Congress. Current members of the CCP’s top decision-making bodies, the Central Committee and Politburo, could be replaced, while Chinese Leader Xi Jinping could be reappointed for a third term.

Tzeng believes that the Biden administration sees issues including Taiwan, Xinjiang, and Tibet as “bargaining chips” which could be used to extract significant “economic and diplomatic” deals from Beijing.

“It is difficult for the two sides to resolve their differences immediately,” Tzeng said.

Follow Frank on Twitter: @HwaiDer