China comes out swinging as 2+2=5 amid US-Japan talks

US Secretary of State Blinken warns of Beijing’s ‘coercion’ and ’aggression’ after discussions in Tokyo

Before diplomatic talks between the United States and Japan in Tokyo, China came out swinging.

Growing concerns about Washington’s plan to contain Beijing’s “aggression” has forced President Xi Jinping’s regime to bring out the media big guns to silence critics.

On Tuesday, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin held “2+2” discussions with Japanese Foreign Minister Toshimitsu Motegi and Defense Minister Nobuo Kishi before heading to South Korea.

Security issues dominated the talks and the media briefing that followed. But before they had a chance to speak, China had launched a verbal missile at US President Joe Biden’s Indo-Pacific policy.

“The US has [stressed] the importance of the alliance system to offer a credible deterrence to China. [But the real problem] to the decline [of the US] in the era of globalization [is its lack of] competitiveness. Innovation is declining and its labor force is becoming lazy,” state-controlled Global Times said in an editorial entitled US wants Japan, South Korea to become bigger bargaining chips. Ouch! 

The issues:

  • China’s rapid military expansion in the South and East China Seas has rattled democracies in the Indo-Pacific.
  • Beijing claims nearly all of the 1.3 million-square-mile South China Sea as its “sovereign territory.” 
  • Sandbars and disputed mini islands have been turned into PLA naval bases in a projection of military might.
  • Up to US$3 trillion of trade traverses through the South China Sea.
  • Xi appears determined to dominate this maritime superhighway.
  • Taiwan is another flashpoint. 
  • The democratic island is considered a renegade province by Beijing. 
  • China has even threatened to reunite it with the “motherland” by using “force” if necessary.
  • Beijing is also at loggerheads with Tokyo about disputed islands in the East China Sea.
  • They are known as the Senkaku chain in Japanese and Diaoyu in Chinese.

What was said: “We will push back if necessary when China uses coercion or aggression to get its way. And China [has used] coercion and aggression to systemically erode autonomy in Hong Kong, undercut democracy in Taiwan, abuse human rights in Xinjiang and Tibet, and assert maritime claims in the South China Sea that violate international law,” US Secretary of State Blinken said.

Japan’s viewpoint: “[The] free and open international order is greatly challenged by attempts to change the status quo by force and [the] progress of [an] authoritarian system,” Japanese Foreign Affairs Minister Motegi said, referring to the strategic environment of the Indo-Pacific.

Alternative narrative: “China is the biggest hope for South Korea and Japan to realize their economic recoveries, and India is becoming calm after a series of border conflicts. They will be reluctant to unconditionally serve the US’ strategic purpose,” Song Zhongping, a Chinese military expert and television commentator, said.

Delve deeper: Blinken’s comments came after last week’s virtual Quad Summit between US President Biden and the political leaders of Australia, India and Japan. It also follows Washington’s further tightening of restrictions on Chinese tech companies in the US and vocal opposition to Beijing’s repression of human rights in Xinjiang.

China Factor comment: Next stop will be South Korea and discussions with officials from President Moon Jae-in’s administration before heading to Anchorage later this week. In Alaska, Blinken and National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan will lay out Washington’s position to Chinese State Councilor Wang Yi and Foreign Affairs top diplomat Yang Jiechi in a symbolic meeting. How that plays out is open to debate but do not expect the unexpected.