Authored by Pepe Escobar,
On one side of the table, a Global South leader at the top of his game. On the other side, a mummy selling the illusion hes the leader of the free world.
That was bound for a cliffhanger before, during or after the crucial bilateral involving the worlds top two powers. Already during the introductory remarks, US Secretary of State Tony Blinken, sitting on the right side of the mummy, was as terrified as James Stewart afraid of heights in Hitchcock's "Vertigo" - sensing doom would dawn at any second.
Then it did - at the final presser. Joe Biden, the actor playing The Mummy, following a proverbial smirk, said Chinese President Xi Jinping is a dictator. Because he is the leader of a communist country.
All those previous elaborate plans unraveled, in a flash. A tentatively rosy scenario turned into a film noir. The Chinese Foreign Ministrys response was as sharp as a Dashiell Hammett one-liner and contextualized: this was not only extremely wrong but an irresponsible political manipulation.
All of the above of course assumed The Mummy knew where he was and what he was talking about, off the cuff, and not dictated by his ubiquitous earpiece.
The White House gives away the plot
The Xi-Biden drama, lasting a little over two hours, was not exactly a remake of Vertigo. Washington and Beijing seemed quite cozy jointly promising the proverbial promotion and strengthening of dialogue and cooperation in various fields; an intergovernmental dialogue on AI; drug control cooperation; back to high-level military-to-military talking; a maritime security consultation mechanism; significantly increasing flights by early 2024; and expanding exchanges in education, international students, culture, sports, and business circles.
The Hegemon was far from having a priceless Maltese Falcon (the stuff dreams are made of) to offer Beijing. China is already solidified as the worlds top trading economy by PPP. China is advancing at breakneck speed on the tech race even under nasty US sanctions. Chinas soft power across the Global South/Global Majority increases by the day. China is co-organizing with Russia the concerted drive towards multipolarity.
The White House readout , as bland as it might seem, actually gives away the key part of the plot.
Biden actually his earpiece - underscored support for a free and open Indo-Pacific; the defense of our Indo-Pacific allies; the commitment to freedom of navigation and overflight; adherence to international law; maintaining peace and stability in the South China Sea and East China Sea; support to Ukraines defense against Russian aggression; and support for Israels right to defend itself against terrorism.
Beijing understands in detail the context and the geopolitical overtones of each of these pledges.
What the readout does not say is that Bidens handlers also tried to convince the Chinese to stop buying oil from their strategic partner Iran.
Thats not gonna happen. China imported an average of 1.05 million barrels of oil a day from Iran over the first 10 months of 2023 - and rising.
US Think Tankland, always excelling in misinformation and disinformation, believed in their own childish projection of Xi playing tough guy against the US in Asia, knowing that Washington cant afford a third love affair, sorry, war front on top of Ukraine and Israel/Palestine.
The fact is Xi knows all there is to know about imperial, rotating Hybrid War fronts, plus others that can be powered on at the flick of a switch. The Hegemon continues to provoke disturbance not only in Taiwan but in the Philippines, Japan, South Korea, India, and continues to flirt with possible color revolutions in Central Asia.
There has been no direct US-China confrontation yet thanks to millenary Chinese diplomatic expertise and long term vision. Beijing knows in detail how Washington is simultaneously in Full Hybrid War mode against BRI (the Belt and Road Initiative) and BRICS soon to become BRICS 11. Only two options for China and the US
A Sino-American reporter, after the introductory remarks, asked Xi, in Mandarin, if he trusted Biden. The Chinese President perfectly understood the question, looked at her, and did not answer.
Thats a key plot twist. After all, Xi knew from the beginning he was talking to the handlers controlling an earpiece. Moreover, he was fully aware of Biden, actually his handlers, qualifying Beijing as a threat to the rules based international order, not to mention relentless accusations of Xinjiang genocide plus the containment tsunami.
Not by accident, last March, in a speech to Communist Party notables, Xi explicitly stated that the US is engaged in comprehensive containment, encirclement and suppression against us.
Shanghai-based scholar Chen Dongxiao suggests that China and US should engage in ambitious pragmatism. That happened to be exactly the tone of Xis key takeaway in San Francisco:
There are two options for China and the US in the era of global transformations unseen in a century: One is to enhance solidarity and cooperation and join hands to meet global challenges and promote global security and prosperity; and the other is to cling to the zero-sum mentality, provoke rivalry and confrontation, and drive the world towards turmoil and division. The two choices point to two different directions that will decide the future of humanity and Planet Earth."
That is as serious as it gets. Xi added context. China is not engaged in colonial plunder; is not interested in ideological confrontation; it does not export ideology; and it has no plans to surpass or replace the US. So the US should not attempt to suppress or contain China.
Bidens handlers may have told Xi that Washington still follows the One China policy even as it continues to weaponize Taiwan under the twisted logic that Beijing might invade. Xi, once again, provided the concise clincher: China will eventually, inevitably be reunified with Taiwan. $40,000 for dinner with Xi
Amid all the barely concealed tension, relief in San Francisco came in the form of business. Everyone and his corporate neighbor Microsoft, Citigroup, ExxonMobil, Apple was dying to meet with leaders from several APEC nations. And especially from China.
APEC after all accounts for nearly 40% of the global population and nearly 50% of global trade. This is all about Asia-Pacific not Indo-Pacific, an empty rules-based international order gambit that no one knows anything about, much less uses anywhere across Asia. Asia-Pacific will account for at least two-thirds of global growth in 2023 and counting.
Hence the sterling success of a business dinner at the Hyatt Regency, with tickets costing between $2,000 and $40,000, hosted by the National Committee on United States-China Relations (NCUSCR) and the US-China Business Council (USCBC). Xi, inevitably, was the star of the show.
Corporate honchos well knew in advance that the US opted out of the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP); and that the new trade gambit, the so-called Indo-Pacific Economic Framework (IPEF) is basically D.O.A. IPEF may deal with supply chain issues but it does not hit the heart of the matter: lower tariffs and wide market access.
So Xi was there to sell to investors not only China but a great deal of Asia-Pacific as well.
One day after San Francisco, the heart of the action moved to Shanghai and a high-level Russia-China conference; thats the kind of meeting where the strategic partnership formulates paths ahead in the Long March to Multipolarity.
In San Francisco, Xi made a point to stress that China respects the historical, cultural and geographical position of the US, while hoping that the US would respect the path of socialism with Chinese characteristics.
And heres where the film noir plot approaches the final shootout. What Xi hopes will never happen with Straussian neocon psychos running US foreign policy. And that was starkly confirmed by The Mummy, a.k.a. Joe Dictator Biden.
So much for realpolitik practitioner Joseph soft power Nye, one of the few realists that believe China and the US, like James Stewart and Kim Novak in Vertigo, need each other, and should not be separated.
Well, unfortunately, in Vertigo the heroine plunges into the void and dies.