Even before last week’s “admirably acrimonious” meeting between Chinese and US officials in Alaska, Joe Biden and Secretary of State Antony Blinken showed they were sticking to the principle that it is wise “to know your own mind and to make sure that the other side knows it too”, says George Will in The Washington Post. Harry Truman did just that in 1945, when he dressed down the Soviet foreign minister “in words of one syllable”. At Ronald Reagan’s first news conference as president, he said the Soviets “reserve unto themselves the right to commit any crime, to lie, to cheat”.
Biden and Blinken know the competition with China will not end as decisively as the struggle with the Soviet Union. But Beijing’s ties to the global economy means it has much to lose if it can be depicted as “barbarous and dangerous”. Biden last year categorised China’s savagery towards the Uighurs as genocide. And Blinken’s choice of the word “quash” to describe what Beijing is doing to Hong Kong’s democracy “is commendably without mincing nuance”. Biden and Blinken must now cultivate the US, India, Japan and Australia (combined GDP $30.8 trillion) as a “counterweight” to China (GDP $14.3 trillion). If they do, this so-called Quad might put together something not unlike the successful containment measures “Truman announced after his admirably testy meeting with Molotov”.