As Beijing seeks to pacify domestic appetite for hardline policies without causing irrevocable damage to the relationship with Washington, the Chinese are attempting to straddle a fine line.
Analysts feel Beijing has stopped short of overly provocative action and has not or is unable to retaliate on par to American diplomacy, despite Chinese diplomats having the “Wolf Warrior” attitude, official rhetoric and online keyboard warriors.
Last week, the US ordered China’s consulate in Houston to close within 72 hours over alleged espionage activities, causing tensions to flare up between the 2 superpowers.
The American consulate in Chengdu was chosen to be closed as Beijing’s response, rather than shuttering high-profile offices like the one in Wuhan or more significant US consulates located in Shanghai or Hong Kong.
The closure in Chengdu highlighted the Chinese government’s balancing act in trying to please its local audience without pushing bilateral relations to the brink, despite Chengdu’s closure being deemed as “necessary, appropriate and reciprocal” and allowing its citizens to view it through live streaming.
Zhang Baohui, a political science professor at Lingnan University in Hong Kong, said,“Basically, it intended to show that China stands firm but does not want to escalate the situation.” “China’s overall approach, as a rising power, is how not to move the US towards a full-fledged cold war.”
Back in mid-2018, Washington took the first steps that started a trade war that continues to this day, which was the start of tensions between China and the US. Although further trade talks with China were dismissed by US President Donald Trump, the “phase one” trade deal both sides signed in January was still maintained by Beijing.
The major powers have continued to clash over technological competition, corporate espionage, the coronavirus pandemic and Beijing’s actions in Hong Kong, Xinjiang, Taiwan, and the South China Sea, all of which only worsened relations further.
Foreign Minister Wang Yi was busy working to improve relations with Germany last Thursday, while US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo urged democratic-leaning Chinese citizens to use more aggressive moves to “induce change” from the Chinese Communist Party.
Pompeo’s speech revealed that he was “launching a new crusade against China in a globalised world” and urged the world to “step forward to prevent him from doing the world more harm” according to Foreign ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying.
Wang Yi sent out a public call for reconciliation and dialogue “as long as the US is willing” earlier this month, but a week later he said the US had “lost its mind, morals and credibility”, and the Trump administration’s “America First” policy had induced bullying and egoism.
After previous moments of heightened tensions, the Chinese Communist Party was still looking for solutions to ease the situation according to Cui Lei, an associate research fellow at the China Institute of International Studies in Beijing.
Cui, a former diplomat, explains “Beijing’s strategy is both to maintain stability, express goodwill and to preserve, at least on the surface, a sense that they will not give in.”
“As long as the US does not want to go to war, there is still room for negotiations.” China sanctioned lawmakers Marco Rubio, Ted Cruz, Chris Smith and US ambassador for international religious freedom Sam Brownback, in a tit-for-tat move when the US sanctioned senior Chinese officials including Politburo member and Xinjiang party secretary Chen Quanguo in July over Beijing’s repression in Xinjiang.
29th July 18:40
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