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Americans and Chinese are counting their troops

European and Asian allies on one side; Russia, Iran and North Korea on the other. After their confrontation in Alaska, Americans and Chinese seek to consolidate their alliances around their breaking point: democracy.

The first China-US contact in the Biden era was followed by an all-out degradation of the relationship between China and the West, especially Europe, which had more or less maintained contact with Beijing under Donald Trump.

“We are heading towards bipolarity and a new cold war opposing on the one hand the good guys (the democracies, the West) and the bad guys (the dictatorships, China, Russia, Iran and North Korea)”, summarizes the Sinologist Jean- Pierre Cabestan, from the Baptist University of Hong Kong.

“There is a new sacred union of democracies on Xinjiang, Hong Kong, human rights in China (…) The novelty for the United States is that they need their allies to counterbalance the rise in the power of China, ”he observes.

As a symbol, diplomats from 26 countries accompanied their Canadian colleague to the Beijing court on Monday where one of the two Canadians arrested at the end of 2018 was tried behind closed doors a few days after a leader of the Chinese group Huawei in Canada.

Beijing seeking support

By putting the defense of freedoms set aside by his predecessor at the top of American priorities, President Joe Biden is succeeding in his bet to unite democracies in the face of the Chinese challenge, underlines in Beijing the independent political scientist Hua Po.

If the Americans and their allies have divergent interests vis-à-vis China, on the other hand “they agree on the issue of human rights. It is a symbol of solidarity between the United States and its Western allies, ”he notes.

Opposite, the highest Chinese Communist official for diplomacy, Yang Jiechi, attacked US Secretary of State Antony Blinken on March 18 in Anchorage, to the delight of nationalist circles in China. “The United States no more than Western countries represent international public opinion,” he said.

Foreign Minister Wang Yi has since chained up contacts with states in trouble with the West, starting with Sergey Lavrov, the head of Russian diplomacy, received Monday in southern China.

The opportunity for the two countries to reaffirm that in their eyes “there is no single model for democracy”.

The minister continued with a tour of Turkey, Iran and Saudi Arabia, countries where he received the support of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman for Chinese policy in Xinjiang (northwest).

On Saturday in Tehran, Wang Yi signed with his Iranian counterpart Mohammad Javad Zarif a 25-year strategic and commercial cooperation agreement between the two countries.

“Policy of encirclement”

American side, Joe Biden in person had preceded the meeting of Anchorage of a virtual summit with India, Japan and Australia, within the framework of the “Quad”, an informal alliance intended to counterbalance the influence Chinese in Asia-Pacific.

China is faced with “a policy of multifaceted encirclement” from Washington: strategic, technological and commercial, observes Hua Po.

Faced with this triple threat, the alliance with Russia, Iran or North Korea is no match, he admits.

Antony Blinken had meanwhile prepared his first face-to-face with the Chinese during a tour of Japan and South Korea, Beijing’s immediate neighbors. He continued it last week in Brussels where he promised to rebuild the alliance with the EU against China and Russia.

Simultaneously, Americans, Europeans, British and Canadians announced sanctions against a handful of senior Chinese officials found responsible for the crackdown on Uyghur Muslims in Xinjiang.

These coordinated sanctions have provoked the fury of Beijing, which has taken similar measures, explaining that it has no lessons to learn in the area of ​​human rights.

Holocaust, massacres and slavery

With history to back it up, Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying reminded Germany of the crimes of the Holocaust, France of the massacres in Algeria, Americans and British of the slave trade and Canadians treatment of indigenous people.

But behind the rhetoric, the Chinese press is also focusing on the positive aspects of the Anchorage meeting, namely the points on which the two powers have agreed to collaborate, such as the climate or vaccines, notes the sinologist Bonnie Glaser, of the Washington Center for International and Strategic Studies (CSIS).

By approaching Russia, China responds above all to the strengthening of the Quad and “seeks to show that it has friends and other options,” said Ms. Glaser.

“But China is also signaling that it wants a stable relationship with the United States,” adds the Sinologist. “The world is not dividing into two opposing camps.”

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