Sat. May 25th, 2024

China continues to ‘fight while negotiating’ — when will the US catch on? 

Emily Hudson By Emily Hudson May22,2024

The Korean War was America’s first major foreign conflict in a century in which the United States did not seek and achieve total victory. It was also the war in which the enemy perfected the doctrine of “negotiating while fighting.” 

The psychological strategy worked to the communist side’s advantage. Once the finality of the conflict was apparently in sight, the U.S. and its Western allies began thinking in earnest of the post-conflict era and relaxing their war-fighting mentality. U.S. policymakers sought to demonstrate to world that they were not the obstacle to the end of the war that the enemy had started. China and North Korea, unconcerned with public opinion, stepped up their attacks. 

The prolonged stalemate affected morale among the fighting forces themselves — no one wanted to be the last man killed in a war that was about to be over. Thousands of Americans died as negotiations dragged on, generating pressure to make concessions. The tragic scenario was repeated in the Vietnam War. 

Today, China and its ally Russia are finding the West’s peaceful instincts particularly useful in the new Cold War.  

At the same time Xi Jinping and Vladimir Putin were declaring a “no-limits strategic partnership” to replace American hegemony and the rules-based international order, Beijing was encouraging Washington to pursue bilateral cooperation on trade, the climate and reducing China-U.S. frictions. The distractions largely succeeded, as China managed to fulfill its pledge of support for Russia’s aggression in Ukraine and to undermine U.S. sanctions while slow-walking and mostly ignoring its promises of cooperation with Washington. 

The Chinese spy balloon incident in February 2023 was at least a temporary wake-up call for many U.S. policymakers, who seemed to discover for the first time that the People’s Republic of China harbored hostile intentions toward the United States.  

The huge balloon equipped with the latest high-tech reconnaissance equipment flagrantly violated sovereign U.S. airspace and collected untold volumes of critical intelligence while it was allowed to linger over several highly sensitive U.S. military bases before the U.S. shot it down as it left U.S. territory. The brazen incident prompted Secretary of State Blinken to postpone his upcoming visit to China; Beijing accused Washington of gratuitously maligning China and fanning Cold War fears.  

President Biden and Xi met in November 2023 to reset the chilled relations. While the White House readout said they “made progress on a number of key issues,” there was no meaningful progress in the following months. Military-to-military communications have resumed for now, but if past practice is any indication, China will refuse to answer the phone when the next crisis occurs.   

At the beginning of April, Biden and Xi spoke by telephone. The Chinese readout from the call indicated that Xi had reaffirmed his intention to move aggressively against Taiwan if it did not yield “peacefully” to Chinese Communist control. Neither the Chinese nor American reports suggested that Biden pushed back and repeated directly to Xi what he had said four times to U.S. reporters — that America will defend Taiwan. He merely “emphasized the importance of maintaining peace and stability across the Taiwan Strait.”  

Later in the month, Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen became the latest official to admit that the China engagement policies they fervently espoused over the past four decades were both naive and counter-productive. Setting a different and firmer tone for her upcoming visit to Beijing, she explained her change in attitude. 

Yellen said when she was in an earlier government post and China flooded the U.S. market with cheap export goods, she “felt like sending a thank-you note.” But, after the hollowing out and collapse of U.S. industries unable to compete with subsidized Chinese companies, she no longer believes expressions of appreciation are the right response.  

Her consistent complaint during her visit was that China was still surging its cheap exports to the U.S. and the underpriced goods continue to damage Western businesses. China’s news service, Xinhua, accused Yellen of ramping up information warfare in preparation for more hostile U.S. economic measures. 

Blinken’s follow-up visit to Beijing last week was greeted by renewed Chinese hostility — signaling China intends to keep on fighting while negotiating. 

Joseph Bosco served as China country director for the secretary of Defense from 2005 to 2006 and as Asia-Pacific director of humanitarian assistance and disaster relief from 2009 to 2010. He is a nonresident fellow at the Institute for Corean-American Studies and a member of the advisory board of the Global Taiwan Institute. Follow him on X @BoscoJosephA.  

Emily Hudson

By Emily Hudson

Emily is a talented author who has published several bestselling novels in the mystery genre. With a knack for creating gripping plotlines and intriguing characters, Emily's works have captivated readers worldwide.

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2 thoughts on “China continues to ‘fight while negotiating’ — when will the US catch on? ”
  1. China continues to ‘fight while negotiating’ — when will the US catch on? The Korean War was America’s first major foreign conflict in a century in which the United States did not seek and achieve total victory. It was also the war in which the enemy perfected the doctrine of “negotiating while fighting.”
    The psychological strategy worked to the communist side’s advantage. Once the finality of the conflict was apparently in sight, the U.S. and its Western allies began thinking in earnest of the post-conflict era and relaxing their war-fighting mentality. U.S. policymakers sought to demonstrate to the world that they were not the obstacle to the end of the war that the enemy had started. China and North Korea, unconcerned with public opinion, stepped up their attacks.
    The prolonged stalemate affected morale among the fighting forces themselves — no one wanted to be the last person killed in a war that was about to be over. Thousands of Americans died as negotiations dragged on, generating pressure to make concessions. The tragic scenario was repeated in the Vietnam War.
    Today, China and its ally Russia are finding the West’s peaceful instincts particularly useful in the new Cold War.
    At the same time, Xi Jinping and Vladimir Putin were declaring a “no-limits strategic partnership” to replace American hegemony and the rules-based international order, Beijing was encouraging Washington to pursue bilateral cooperation on trade, the climate, and reducing China-U.S. frictions. The distractions largely succeeded, as China managed to fulfill i

  2. It’s concerning to see history repeating itself in terms of negotiating while fighting. The U.S. needs to adapt and not fall into the same pattern to prevent further advantage to their adversaries.

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