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Not exactly how you want your top diplomat to respond to a crisis

Apparently Chinese foreign minister Yang Jiechi didn’t take it too well when Secretary Hillary Clinton last week essentially called “bullshit” on some of China’s more creative and ambitious claims to the South China Sea.  According to US and Asian officials present at the meeting:

“Foreign Minister Yang reacted by leaving the meeting for an hour. When he returned, he gave a rambling 30-minute response in which he accused the United States of plotting against China on this issue, seemed to poke fun at Vietnam’s socialist credentials and apparently threatened Singapore”

Safe to say, it probably wasn’t Minister Yang’s best day on the job…

15 Comments on Not exactly how you want your top diplomat to respond to a crisis

  1. the next bit is even funnier:

    “China is a big country and other countries are small countries, and that’s just a fact,” he said, staring directly at Singapore’s foreign minister, George Yeo, according to several participants at the meeting.

    On Monday, Yang issued a statement on the Foreign Ministry’s Web site saying that there was no need to internationalize the issue, that China was still intent on solving all of the disputes bilaterally and that China’s view represented the interests of “fellow Asians.”


  2. Yes, we will work with our ‘fellow Asians’ to become more prosperous, all of us together, prospering in one…one big…one big SPHERE (that’s the ticket!)…where we can all become co-equally prosperous in a single sphere, all of East Asia together, wait…now WHERE have I heard that before. Wait. No hints! It’ll come to me…

  3. Slightly tangential, but I’ve been very impressed with HRC in her role as Foreign Secretary in the Obama administration.

    I just left the following comment on Pomfret’s article “U.S. takes a tougher tone with China” ( over at haohaoreport:

    If I may say so, it’s about time – for all the world’s children’s future. A China dominated globe under Beijing’s current vision is going to take human suffering to new heights. There’s only one nation with the clout to stand up to them, and much as their foreign policy of recent decades has been lamentable, those with faith can thank God for America. Even US influence – constantly undermined by Beijing’s strategising – may not be enough in the end. But no US, no hope.

    There are only three versions of tomorrow. First, a China dominated world. Second, Armageddon. Third, a multi-polar world where competing interests counter-balance each other. For all our sakes it’s time to wake up to the fact that option three is the ONLY way forward. And that can only happen with a concerted US-led effort to push back against China’s thinly-veiled expansionist policy.

    That effort needs to start right now.

    If I hadn’t already written it I’d probably smooth over the hyberbole a little. At the risk of being inappropriately labeled an ‘alarmist’, I stand by it. And for good reason.

    Hillary was right to call BS on China’s claims and not before time. A counterweight to Beijing is essential; but it’s ineffective if it sits on the bench in the hope that the Chinese government will acquire the moral responsibility to know when to stop pushing the boundaries. That’s never going to happen. We need the US to get in Beijing’s face a little on some of these issues; and by so doing they keep these issues within the realm of debate and not, as Beijing would prefer, as non-negotiable.

    Apologies if this acts as fenqing catnip. I’m fully prepared to clear up the litter if it does.

  4. I can’t believe it took him 30 minutes to accuse the United States of plotting against China. That is an hour-long marathon session of grievances right there! Talk about efficient diplomacy!

  5. Winslowalrob,

    And to think he was absent one hour to call his minders back at Party HQ and STILL managed to get it all in.

    Ps. Haven’t ignored your “thread jack” before, I’m actually turning it into a post. Check back this weekend.

  6. Stuart,

    Not too many fenqing drop by these days, but if they do I think you’ve given them a lot to think about.

  7. The WaPo article seems to be the only source for the line: “China is a big country and other countries are small countries, and that’s just a fact”. Has anybody found the original Chinese for this? My Google-fu is apparently not good enough.

  8. This seems to be the Nixon-Kissinger “madman” doctrine, but with the positions reversed.

    Nixon acted as the madman — he’d make speeches that implied he was capable of all kinds of overreaction. Kissinger would then make the rounds and tell everyone that he was the only thing keeping Nixon from pushing the button. So, please, sign this treaty while you’ve still got a chance. I know you won’t get everything you wanted, but I can’t hold this madman off forever.

    I’m not sure how effective it works in reverse, but this does seem to be the pattern.

  9. Another example of China’s relative immaturity on the international scene. Diplomatic tact and prowess is something that you can’t buy with a 9% annual.

  10. Micah,

    I was a little nervous posting this for that very reason, but I also suspect that Yang’s reaction (or at least the account of how it was received by others in attendance) wasn’t ever going to be a major part of Chinese press reports on the meeting. But that doesn’t make me half as skeptical as the unnamed nature of the sources. I know it was a sensitive meeting and a touchy issue, but not having a name on record…still, John Pomfret is one of the better journalists on China and I decided that he was less likely than others to, how shall I put this?…make shit up.

  11. Tom,

    That’s an interesting theory, though given Yang Jiechi’s reputation, I would have thought that HE would be the Kissinger and leave the Nixon role to some triple-starred PLA general or, God forbid, Xi Jinping.

    This reminds of the scene in season 1 of the Wire where Herc and Carver are interrogating a young suspect and Carver clumsily attempts to appeal to the suspect’s good side only to be told to, in less polite times, orally pleasure the young man, at which point Carver stands up and begins pummeling the suspect with the final line of the scene being the suspect yelling out “You’re SUPPOSED to be the good cop, bitch!”

  12. Bryan,

    I think it’s an awkward stage for China diplomatically. Last month I wrote a post about how China, as a country/nation-state not as a civilization, was really quite young. It had endured a rocky childhood and then a remarkable growth spurt. It seemed to me that China approached the world the way an 18-year old with a rough background might — a mix of bluster, bravado, pride, and brittle confidence: Easily angered, unsure of their direction, but knowing that they had survived a lot and had the skills and the smarts to go far if only “The Man” would let them.

  13. haha too bad US wasted its reputation and money on its crazy adventures of the middle EAST.

    ALso, China’s attempts to dominate Asia reminds me of US’s attempts to dominate Latin America, sending its troops to other people’s land to support dictatorship or capture resources.

    US = China

  14. I didn’t mean to imply that Pomfret would have made up the quote; in fact it shows his experience that he was able to catch that nuance. I just think it would mean something to see if the Taiwanese, Singaporean, or Philippine (or other English/Chines-language) media had picked it up as well.

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