Two world leaders, Chinese leader Xi Jinping and Russian President Vladimir Putin, did not attend the Group of 20 summit held in New Delhi, which concluded on Sunday.
Erin Walsh, senior research fellow for international affairs in The Heritage Foundation’s Asian Studies Center, says that “clearly, the two of them made a decision that they weren’t going to show up.”
“[A]nd they want to create their own new rules, and new economy, and new standards, and new world, for that matter; for the world to play by the rules that they set forward, and I think that this was a first stab at that,” Walsh says.
“So, we’re going to have to wait and see what happens at the upcoming [Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation] summit, but it’s clear that they wanted to do that,” she says, adding:
And also, the fact that I think China was pouting because they are not supportive of India, there’s tension between the two nations, and China wants to show that they had the upper hand and would not go to India, on [Indian Prime Minister Narendra] Modi’s soil, to pay that kind of respect. And so, that tells you something about Xi Jinping, which is more than we probably want to know.
APEC will host its summit in mid-November in San Francisco.
Walsh joins today’s episode of “The Daily Signal Podcast” to discuss President Joe Biden’s recent comments that he doesn’t “want to contain China” and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un’s meeting with Putin.
Listen to the podcast below or read the lightly edited transcript:
Samantha Aschieris: Joining today’s episode of “The Daily Signal Podcast” is Erin Walsh, senior research fellow for international affairs in The Heritage Foundation’s Asian Studies Center. Erin, thanks so much for joining us today.
Erin Walsh: It’s wonderful to be here with you, Sam.
Aschieris: So, first and foremost, the G20 summit, which was held in New Delhi, wrapped up on Sunday. But before we get to some takeaways from the summit, I wanted to get your reaction to a sound bite of President Joe Biden talking about China while he was in Vietnam. Let’s take a listen via the White House’s YouTube.
President Joe Biden: I don’t want to contain China, I just want to make sure we have a relationship with China that is on the up and up, squared away, everybody knows what it’s all about.
Aschieris: He also said later that “we’re not looking to hurt China, sincerely” and “we’re all better off if China does well.”
Erin, first and foremost, what is your reaction to the president’s remarks about China?
Walsh: It’s interesting because President Biden has said that over and over again, “We’re not trying to contain China,” which, in fact, the president is quite confused as to what he’s actually doing, and they do not seem to have a clear policy on China.
China has declared war on the United States more recently, in, I would say, about the last five or six years, but it’s been going on for 20 years, where they have aggressively gone after the United States.
[Chinese] President Xi Jinping just said this year that the United States is basically trying to suppress and encircle China, and in short, trying to contain their growth and their development, since they’re a developing country, he believes, even though they’re the second-largest economy in the world.
And so, for the president to say, “We are not trying to contain them,” he’s just trying to actually have his own engagement strategy progress.
Aschieris: What, if anything, do these remarks tell us about how the Biden administration views the threat of the Chinese Communist Party?
Walsh: I think that they view them indeed as a threat. I think that it’s the way that they’re handling it. And I think what they want to do, they have a lot of things that they want to get done, such as their climate change net-zero, and I think they’re not going to be able to do that because the Chinese are not going to cooperate.
The president also said that he hopes, he wants to get the relationship right, we’re not trying to contain them, and he just wants to push them to follow the rules.
Well, China has determined that they’re not going to follow the rules, and in fact, they’re actually trying to create a new rules-based order, so to speak, of their own. And their allies are actually Iran, North Korea, Venezuela, and Cuba, and not to mention Russia. So I think that they are trying to diminish the United States, the West, the dollar, and everything else that goes with it.
Aschieris: Now, while Biden was in Vietnam, the U.S. and Vietnam also reached a deal. Can you tell us a little bit more about what this deal entails and break it down for us a little bit more?
Walsh: Sure. The key was that the president was going over there, and I think that was a good idea, to go over to Vietnam to strengthen our relationship with them. He elevated the level of the partnership to a comprehensive strategic partnership, which is one level above, but below an ally, of course, because they are a communist country.
But Vietnam, while they’re a small country, they’ve become a more important country in the region, in the Indo-Pacific, and they really hold the same values, in terms of their own sovereignty, as the United States does.
Aschieris: And just looking forward, how would you advise or suggest the U.S. continue to build on the relationship that we have with Vietnam? How can the U.S. continue to strengthen that relationship?
Walsh: Well, one of the most important things that has been done in recent years is that Mike Pompeo, the former secretary of state, made a decision in 2020 with President [Donald] Trump that we would change our relationship. Whereby previously, we stood on the sidelines, really, if there was claim in the region that a certain area was one country or another, we just stayed neutral.
But at that point, when the president and Pompeo both saw that China was aggressively making claims on other sovereignty within their economic zones, the United States made the decision to really actively respond to those in support of those other nations. So that’s what we’ve been doing.
I think that that was a very good sign for Vietnam, for the Philippines, and that’s why you’re seeing a much more stronger interest in them engaging, having the United States become a closer partner, even though they’re in a very difficult position out there in the region.
Aschieris: The president also made comments about us thinking too much in Cold War terms. What are your thoughts on that?
Walsh: Well, I think that he happens to be on the other side of the world right now making those comments, and he’s on the other side of what the majority and mainline thinkers believe today.
In fact, Heritage came out with a book earlier this year, a very great book, I hope you-all get an opportunity to take a look at it, called “China and the New Cold War.” And basically, the reason we called it this is because we don’t want a hot war with China.
In fact, these are 109 pages worth of policy prescriptions on how to do just that, peace thorough strength, and how the United States can build resiliency, and also build our deterrents to China, and also in support, obviously, of Taiwan and for the world that we believe in. And so that’s what this book is about. We are absolutely in a new cold war.
Aschieris: Why is it important to make that distinction, that we are in fact in a cold war with China?
Walsh: Because what happens is that the Biden administration does everything they can to engage, and it’s like a suitor continuing to chase after someone just to get their attention, and what’s happened is that China has lost all respect for the United States. They have zero respect for us because we try too hard.
And what they’ve done is they have leveraged our engagement policy by saying we would have a meeting, so we’ve used up four chits, so to speak, by sending four Cabinet secretaries in the last three months, high-level senior officials of the Biden administration.
So China said, “You want a meeting? Fine, you’ll get a meeting.” And then, we get the meeting, and guess what? Each Cabinet secretary goes home empty, with nothing.
So, we’re not able to get anything from the Chinese, but they were able to get something from us by just hosting us on their soil. So engagement is not a strategy. The results are the strategy. And we believe in peace restraints.
Aschieris: Absolutely. And in other international news, on Tuesday, North Korean leader Kim Jong Un arrived in Russia for a meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin. The two leaders previously met back in 2019. And based on what I’ve seen so far, at least as of this interview, the date and time hasn’t been reported yet.
First and foremost, with what we know so far, could you just tell us a little bit about this meeting, what we know, and the significance of it?
Walsh: Sure. Well, they had sent envoys ahead of this meeting when the North Koreans took a train, I think a month or so ago, over to Russia to meet with them to really lay the groundwork for this summit. And basically, it’s quite clear that they want to get arms from—so it’s an arms deal from the North Koreans.
And clearly, as we can see, Russia is having a difficult time, because during this counteroffensive that’s going on right now with Ukraine, both sides are going through a great deal of munitions, and so they need some desperately.
As a result, of course, Kim Jong Un is going to have his own ask and requests. They say he will probably ask for food for his team, so to speak, and he will also ask for more advanced technology, for weaponry, such as spy satellites or nuclear-powered submarines.
Aschieris: And what, if anything, does this meeting tell us about the relationship between Russia and North Korea, Vladimir Putin and Kim Jong Un?
Walsh: I think what we’re seeing is a relationship out of necessity. They’re both communist countries, in theory. Russia says they’re a democracy, but we know that Vladimir Putin is anything but. I would say that they have a greater interest in becoming more actively involved with one another, and with China and with Iran, too. So we’re seeing a new group of countries becoming much closer that are very, very anti-the West.
Aschieris: And just speaking of the West, how concerned should the U.S. and the West be?
Walsh: I think it’s very unfortunate that, during this administration, which has shown such weakness, that we’re seeing greater involvement of different, I would say, dangerous administrations out there coming closer together because they see that the United States is not taking any action to keep them from it.
In fact, we’ve seen a hundred missiles being shot, test-fired missiles from North Korea, even in the last several months, and that never took place really at anywhere near that during the Trump administration.
So you can see the difference where they see that the time is now to make their moves and they’re doing so.
Aschieris: Now, as I mentioned at the top of the show, the G20 summit ended on Sunday. What do you view as one of the key takeaways from the summit?
Walsh: The key takeaway, I think, is those that didn’t show up at the G20 summit, which is Xi Jinping and Vladimir Putin, so clearly, the two of them made a decision that they weren’t going to show up, and they want to create their own new rules, and new economy, and new standards, and new world, for that matter, for the world to play by the rules that they set forward. And I think that this was a first stab at that.
So we’re going to have to wait and see what happens at the upcoming [Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation] summit, but it’s clear that they wanted to do that.
Also, the fact that I think China was pouting because they are not supportive of India, there’s tension between the two nations, and China wants to show that they had the upper hand and would not go to India, on [Indian Prime Minister Narendra] Modi’s soil, to pay that kind of respect. And so, that tells you something about Xi Jinping, which is more than we probably want to know.
Aschieris: You just mentioned the APEC summit. When is that? And can you just briefly explain what that is?
Walsh: Sure. It’s the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation. And basically, it’s a summit that takes place. This year, it happens to be going to be held in San Francisco, unfortunately, that city, under the conditions it is right now. But the summit is scheduled to take place in November and President Biden is expected to see and meet with Xi Jinping. But as of right now, due to the fact that he did not show up at the G20, we have no idea whether or not he’s going to show up at APEC.
Aschieris: What would that say about the relationship between China and the U.S.? Does it say anything if Xi Jinping doesn’t show up in November?
Walsh: Sure, it says a great deal. It says a great deal about what he thinks about the United States, more importantly, what he thinks about the Biden administration.
Aschieris: Well, it will certainly be interesting to watch, November is just around the corner. Any other highlights you think are worth mentioning from the G20 summit?
Walsh: I think that they focused a lot on developing countries. They focused on, of course, their environmental and climate change issues. So I think that while there were some good outtakes from that, in terms of what India did, in terms of what Modi did in showing his leadership and being able to showcase India, I think that was all very good.
But I think net net, the G20 is not in great state right now, if you have two leaders who have decided they don’t even want to play with the rest of the world.
Aschieris: Well, Erin, thank you so much for joining us today. Just before we go, any final thoughts?
Walsh: No, there’s just a lot to watch out for, so keep your eyes and ears tuned to what’s next in the relationships.
Aschieris: Perfect. Thank you so much, I appreciate it.
Walsh: OK, thank you.
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