By Ben Norton / Geopolitical Economy Report
Washington’s ambassador to Beijing referred to China as a “threat” and “great challenge”. He stated arrogantly, “The United States is staying in this region. We’re the leader in this region”, referring to the Indo-Pacific.
The ambassador, Nicholas Burns, insisted, “We’re going to hold our own out here. And I feel optimistic – I’m just concluding my first year as ambassador – about the American position in this country [China] and in this region”.
In an interview with the US Chamber of Commerce, Burns made very aggressive comments, going so far as to blame China for the coronavirus pandemic, claiming Beijing is not being “honest about what happened three years ago in Wuhan, with the origin of the Covid-19 crisis”.
The ambassador simultaneously praised the “bipartisan support in the Congress between Republicans and Democrats for a really robust American policy to defend our interests out here in the Indo-Pacific, to compete with the Chinese”.
Burns said all of this at a February 27 event organized by the Chamber of Commerce, the most powerful corporate lobby group in Washington.
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The panel discussion, titled “American Leadership in an Age of Uncertainty”, also featured the US ambassador to Israel, Thomas Nides, and the third in command of the State Department, Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs Victoria Nuland.
Nuland is a hard-line neoconservative who was a key sponsor of a 2014 coup that overthrew Ukraine’s democratically elected, geopolitically neutral President Viktor Yanukovych and installed a pro-Western regime, setting off the war that continues to this day.
This Chamber of Commerce event on “American leadership” came one day before the US Congress held the first hearing of its hawkish “Select Committee on the Chinese Communist Party”. The committee’s chairman, Republican Congressmember Mike Gallagher, described Washington’s new cold on Beijing in extreme terms: “This is not a polite tennis match. This is an existential struggle over what life will look like in the 21st century — and the most fundamental freedoms are at stake”.
US ambassador complains that China has “a very difficult government” and is a “great challenge”
On the Chamber of Commerce panel, Ambassador Burns said “China is going to be one of the great challenges for Americans going forward”. He added, “This is obviously a very difficult moment in the US-China relationship”.
Referring to this “difficult relationship”, Burns complained that the Xi Jinping administration is “a very difficult government here in the People’s Republic of China”.
The ambassador insisted that the US is not waging a new cold war on China and Russia, but rather a forceful campaign of “competition”.
“From my perspective, sitting here in China, looking out at the Indo-Pacific, our American position is stronger than it was five or 10 years ago. It’s the strength of our alliances; it’s the strength of our private sector; it’s our innovative capacity and our R&D capacity which comes from our research institutions and our Big Tech companies”, Burns said.
He called for “competing” with Beijing in four areas – military, economy, technology, and human rights:
One of the great advantages we have right now, in dealing with a very difficult government here in the People’s Republic of China, in a competitive relationship, is that we have large-scale bipartisan agreement that we ought to be competing with China for military power in the Indo-Pacific.
Competing in the economic and trade sphere for a much more level playing field for American business, because it’s not level right now.
We’re certainly competing on technology.
And of course we defend our values. We defend human rights. We take issue, great issue, with what the Chinese have done in Xinjiang, and Tibet, and Hong Kong, with the lack of religious freedom here.
And I think there’s large-scale agreement, frankly, in our country, and also between Republicans and Democrats in Congress, that we’ve got to be competing in those four areas.
Burns hysterically condemned “the balloon incident”, calling it “an outright violation of the sovereignty and territorial integrity of the United States”, adding that “President Biden was absolutely correct in ordering the shoot-down of that balloon”.
The ambassador didn’t mention that US government experts have acknowledged that the Chinese balloon likely had crossed into US territory by accident, due to unforeseen weather conditions.
He also failed to note that the US military later spent roughly $2 million to shoot down a $12 hobbyist balloon.
Burns depicted Chinese tech firms as threats to US national security. “Technology is going to remain a contested area”, he insisted, stressing that “there are real limits” on the ability of “Chinese companies to invest in companies in the United States in technology areas that we deem to be important for our national security”.
The ambassador gloated:
The Chinese believe, the Chinese leadership, that the East is rising and that the West, particularly the United States, was declining.
I think two years into this administration, and on a bipartisan basis, I can say the United States is a strengthened position in the Indo-Pacific, and now the United States and NATO, and the United States and the European Union, are beginning to see the threat from China and the competition from China in the same way.
Burns also called for strengthening US military support for Taiwan, asserting, “It is our obligation, obviously, to maintain our own military strength in and around Taiwan, in this part of the world, to make sure that the Taiwan authorities have the ability to deter any kind of Chinese offensive action, now or in the future”.
In a Freudian slip, the US ambassador accidentally referred to Taiwan as a “country”, stating, “We want to live in a world where big countries can’t push small countries around – or in this case, not a country, but the Taiwan authorities”.
Incestuous relationship between US corporations and the State Department
The Chamber of Commerce event highlighted the incestuous relationship between US corporations and top diplomats in the State Department.
The panel was moderated by the Chamber of Commerce’s executive vice president and head of international affairs, Myron Brilliant.
He opened the discussion by approvingly quoting former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, who declared, “If we have to use force, it is because we are America; we are the indispensable nation. We stand tall and we see further than other countries into the future”.
Brilliant said, “We’re going to pose the question today: Is America still the indispensable nation? Do we have the tools we need to project our leadership in a time of economic and geopolitical uncertainty?”
All of the US diplomats on the panel responded by insisting, yes, the US is still the “leader” of the world.
As ambassador, Burns’ main job is to act as a liaison for US corporate interests.
“Supporting U.S. businesses here in China is one of my top priorities”, Burns tweeted proudly in June 2022, after meeting with the American Chamber of Commerce in China (AmCham China).
Burns collaborates very closely with representatives of US corporations, meeting with the AmCham at least once per month.
In May 2022, he complained that US corporations in China want “a more level playing field”.
Upon meeting with the AmCham yet again in April, Burns reiterated, “I strongly support American businesses”.
Burns’ pro-corporate concerns were similarly reflected in a landmark speech delivered in May 2022 by Secretary of State Antony Blinken. The top US diplomat essentially declared a new containment policy toward China, while complaining about its socialist policies and “market-distorting policies and practices, like subsidies and market access barriers, which China’s government has used for years to gain competitive advantage”.
Like Burns, Blinken called for a “level playing field” for US corporations, lamenting, “Unlike U.S. companies and other market-oriented firms, Chinese companies don’t need to make a profit – they just get another injection of state-owned bank credit when funds are running low”.
The February 2023 Chamber of Commerce event echoed this neoliberal economic ideology.
The Chamber of Commerce vice president, Brilliant, complained about China’s “emphasis on state-owned enterprises and the regulatory behavior of the government”.
Referring to the US “competition” with China and Russia, Brilliant said, “I think the private sector role in this has never been more important in working with our government, and we continue to do that”.
He underscored his life goal is “to work with the private sector and ensure that we continue to see that close cooperation between the public and private sector”.
Brilliant also lamented that Germany is too soft on China and India is too soft on Russia.
The US ambassador to Israel, Thomas Nides, who was also on the panel, spoke openly of the incestuous relationship between the Chamber of Commerce and State Department.
Nides told Brilliant, with a very casual tone, “You and I are good pals. We’ve spent a lot of time talking about things. I’m honored to be your friend”.
The US ambassador referred to the interaction between them as “the game”: “Listen man, you and I have known each other for a long time, we’ve had lots of fun enjoyable trips together, a lot of activity. You represent what’s great about getting in the game”.
Nides continued: “As the three of us have gotten into the game at different points, you’ve been in the game at a really important time, which is that the relationship between the business community and government is critical. None of us forget that”.
He added: “I’ve had the honor to be in business. I’ve had the honor to be in the government. The reality is business and government need to work together; they need to have common agendas”.
Victoria Nuland declares ‘We’re in the post-post-Cold War period’
As US ambassador to China, Nicholas Burns has taken a very hawkish tone.
In February, when the Chinese Foreign Ministry published a devastating report called “US Hegemony and Its Perils”, documenting Washington’s crimes around the world, Burns attacked it angrily as “crude propaganda” that is “unworthy of a great power”.
Under former President George W. Bush, Burns served as US ambassador to NATO, as well as under secretary of state for political affairs, the third-most powerful position in the State Department.
He is a close ally of Victoria Nuland, the neoconservative under secretary of state for political affairs.
In the February 27 Chamber of Commerce vent, Burns heaped praise on Nuland, commenting on “what a pleasure it is to serve with people like Toria Nuland, who is one of my closest friends and closest partners in the US foreign service”.
In her remarks on the panel, Nuland stated, “Obviously, we are now at the end of the post-Cold War period. We’re in the post-post-Cold War period”.
“So to me, unfortunately, it feels a lot like it did at the beginning of my career, that we have large powers contesting the rules of the road that favor freedom. They are doing it by threatening their neighbors, by coercing countries around the world”, Nuland added.
“And therefore US leadership, which has always been essential, is even more essential”, she said.
Nuland left the event earlier explaining, “I gotta run off and see Canadians and work on another hot problem, which is Haiti”.
Nuland has been part of a group of Western hawks pushing for military intervention in Haiti. Canada has already deployed military planes and ships to the Caribbean nation, as Haitians warn of mission creep leading to a new Western occupation of their country.
US ambassador to Israel warns of Iran-Russia-China ‘axis’
Also on the February 27 Chamber of Commerce panel was US Ambassador to Israel Thomas Nides.
He denounced what he called a dangerous “axis” between Iran, Russia, and China.
Blasting Tehran for selling drones to Moscow, Nides warned, “If you think there’s not an axis here between Iran and Russia, and God hopefully not China, it should be a wake-up call to all of us”.
The US ambassador boasted that support for Israel remains bipartisan, despite the far-right extremist government in Israel, which includes representatives of a neo-fascist party and was compared to Nazi Germany by mainstream liberal newspaper Haaretz.
“We have an unbreakable bond with the state of Israel. Regardless of who the prime minister is, regardless of the situation on the ground, that is not going to change”, he reaffirmed.
Nides fearmongered about Iran, saying he is collaborating closely with Israel, and “we’re working on this day and night to make sure Iran does not obtain a nuclear weapon”.
The US ambassador expressed staunch support for the anti-government protests in Iran. Nides added, “We don’t support regime change, I guess publicly anyway”.