What Is There To ‘Respect’?

What Is There To ‘Respect’?

The US and China are talking “candidly, pragmatically and constructively” about trade again.

That’s according to Beijing’s account of a call between Katherine Tai and Liu He. Take a moment to adjust. Your brain will need a second or two to process the absence of Bob Lighthizer and Steve Mnuchin.

Thursday’s chat was the first between America’s new trade representative and Liu since Joe Biden took office. As usual, China emphasized that the discussion was based on “equality and mutual respect.”

They needn’t bother with that previously obligatory language. Or at least not the “equality” part. Economically, China is nearly America’s equal in fact. Beijing doesn’t have to feign it anymore.

As far as the “respect” bit goes, I doubt either side “respects” the other. And if that’s true, both sides would be justified in harboring reservations.

The Party is presiding over genocide in Xinjiang, has removed the trappings of democracy in Hong Kong (the city banned the Tiananmen vigil for the second year in a row on Thursday and passed new measures that mandate the vetting of elected officials by a “review committee” which will determine whether candidates are “patriots”) and for all his high-minded allusions to the many merits of multilateralism, Xi seems bent on instituting Chinese hegemony.

On the other side, America has a mass shooting seemingly every day, its police murder minorities in cold blood, its legislature exists in a perpetual state of gridlock and its vaunted democratic institutions were just exposed as paper tigers by a reality TV show host.

So, both China and the US could quite plausibly ask the other: “What is there to ‘respect’?”

The White House said Tai “discussed the guiding principles of the Biden-Harris administration’s worker-centered trade policy and her ongoing review of the US-China trade relationship, while also raising issues of concern.” China said “the two sides believe that the development of bilateral trade is very important, and exchanged views on issues of mutual concern and agreed to continue to communicate.”

But those boilerplate statements aren’t worth the digital paper they were typed on. The truth was laid bare by Kurt Campbell, the National Security Council’s coordinator for Indo-Pacific affairs, who spoke Wednesday at a Stanford event. “The period that was described as engagement [with China] has come to an end,” Campbell said. America now has a “new set of strategic parameters,” for managing its relationship with Beijing. “The dominant paradigm is going to be competition.”

Campbell cited other examples of Xi’s “assertive” stance and deployment of “hard power” to achieve ends, both economic and military. Prior to her call with Liu, Tai described “very large challenges” to the Sino-US economic relationship.

This comes as the Biden administration conducts a new investigation into the origins of COVID-19. Spoiler alert: That investigation will almost surely be inconclusive.

The contentious “lab” explanation (that the virus escaped from the Wuhan Institute of Virology) has always been a semblance of plausible, but it’s struggled in the shadow of more nefarious conspiracy theories. In the simplest possible terms: Were it not for bad actors (and internet profiteers who run digital tabloids, some of which masquerade as “finance” portals) spreading misinformation, the “lab leak” theory probably would have been taken more seriously. Instead, it became inextricably bound up with far-fetched versions of itself, an entanglement Biden is apparently keen to sort out.

Beijing will stymie that effort. No matter how hard the US intelligence community tries, only a handful of top Chinese officials will ever know the truth.

And while there’s surely quite a bit the international community doesn’t know, there is one force in the world more powerful than the CCP. As one Vanderbilt epidemiologist put it Thursday, we may just be “underestimating Mother Nature here.”


8 thoughts on “What Is There To ‘Respect’?

  1. The bigger question on the lab leak since the truth is almost certainly unobtainable is “what would we do?” if we knew 100% China made the virus in a lab and it escaped OR even if they made it in a lab and released it as a false flag to tank the world economy. How can you punish or discipline the country that makes pretty much everything for your economy including many weapons and munitions components? Write a nasty letter? Impose Tariffs? Drop Bombs? I’m not sure you could do much more than ask them to please not do it again.

    So given that situation… what should we do assuming this could have been lab made or a natural disaster?

    I think at a minimum we can add temperature screening to airline screening permanently. I mean if I have to get microwaved I may as well have my temp taken. We should also do a lot more to prevent getting caught pants down again with no plan and no supplies. We should take lessons from this and add automatic unemployment and stimulus when unemployment rises too high or too fast. It makes no sense to wait until we are in the next crisis to start trying to figure out what to do because guaranteed another is coming.

    1. If we were convinced it was deliberate…..they might get a dose of payback….nah, we’d never do such an outlandish thing when there economy becomes number one in the world….likely by 2050……

      1. We’ll be sucking on their collective (pun intended) exhaust pipe by 2050. And remember people died all over China. They didn’t escape the pandemic. The real question is what are we going to do when they invade Taiwan (the island formerly known as Formosa). We sure can’t invade China. We couldn’t even stop Korea from being divided and they weren’t half trying then.

    2. That’s an excellent idea – permanent temperature screening as part of airline travel. I’d bet that if a couple of other bio-markers could be identified (sweaty palms? rapid pulse?), a better health and security screen could be devised. Then use the microwave machines only as a secondary test.

  2. Mankind struggles with understanding our purpose. Why do we have cognitive abilities, but other species do not?
    It is really quite simple- we are the caretakers of Mother Nature and the Earth’s ecosystem. We were given superior reasoning abilities to maintain a healthy balance among all species and to care for the oceans, land and air.
    Instead, as a species, our endeavors and cognitive abilities have been used to pursue comfort and entertainment at an individual level.
    We are doomed.

  3. Well if you need to generate theories and investigate them all. The virus could have been grown then released in China by virtually any country. People speculate that the virus was here in the United States in 2019. If that were true then one traveler to Wuhan could have spread the virus to China. The morass of theories that are possible are incomprehensively complex.

    I suggest the lessons to be learned here are more along the lines of how do we respond in the future to Future infections. The next one may be more deadly. The next one may be more likely to modify our DNA and result in long-term disease.

    1. Correct. We in the US love to create offshore, not-our-fault boogeymen to let us feel exonerated when we make horrendous mistakes like we did, and our still doing, in response to the pandemic, the climate crisis, racism, and a crumbling infrastructure — just to begin. We don’t want to “own” any of our flaws — it’s a bad “look.” And accepting the mess in the environment is one more case as in “…we may just be “underestimating Mother Nature here.” Accepting that truth and our role in it means we don’t control everything and rushing to have all electric cars by 2030 is not only stupid, but once again reflects a failure to understand and accept what’s going on. Our power grid is already failing in many places — it’s helping to burn down the heart of our food supply in CA — and we think we can double electrical demand for cars and bitcoin mining it while closing our offending power plants and fighting the local NIMBY rules inherent in state and local management politics. Forget it. You are right Emplynester and we have no one to blame but ourselves.

  4. If we were in a society that could look into the future and plan for whatever that future held… and if Emptynester was right… then the only way to prevent total oblivion at our own hands might very well be to eliminate enough of the offending cause to save the planet and what is left of it’s dwindling species. Just saying…

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