The Taiwan Two-Step
"The early bird gets the worm, but the second mouse gets the cheese."
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On the matter of China and the United States (a/k/a the biggest story on the planet), there is a lot to digest as President Biden wings his way home from Japan.
The media coverage of the president’s Monday Taiwan remarks (and the White House clarification) is hilariously all over the map, with characterizations of the original statement running the gamut from gaffe, to Uncle Joe, to purposeful/premeditated good cop/bad, to executive assertion, to mass confusion, to biggest story on earth, to barely mentioning it.
Truly, I can’t recall such an utter absence of a conventional wisdom storyline on such a monumental matter since …. well.....I actually can’t think of a parallel.
Here’s the last bit of presidential “clarification” that occurred while the Gang of 500 (mostly) slept (via a White House pool report):
At the end of an event on the Quad Fellowship, President Biden responded briefly to a few shouted questions on his comments yesterday about Taiwan:
Mr. Biden, standing alongside the three other leaders for a photo session, was asked if the policy of strategic ambiguity toward Taiwan was dead. He responded, "No."
He was then asked to elaborate and said, "No."
Another reporter asked if Mr. Biden would send troops to Taiwan if China invaded.
Mr. Biden responded: "The policy has not changed at all. I stated that when I made my statement yesterday."
One theory that I have not seen floated enough is that the Taiwan remarks were made to purposefully distract attention away from other aspects of Team Biden’s China policy – or, in some cases and in the view of a few significant players, a lack of China policy.
In semi-rare pacific confluence, the editorial boards of the Wall Street Journal and the Washington Post both are fine with the Taiwan rhetoric but disappointed in the scope of the Indo-Pacific Economic Framework, whose exclusion of Taiwan would surely have been the lead story of the trip had there not been a conveniently unfurled “other” Taiwan story to discuss.
Clearly, Team Biden is finding the right recipe to compete with and contain China economically to be, in many ways, more of a challenge than the military part of the puzzle.
So, for instance, the New York Times looks at the continuing intra-administration battle over tariffs and the inherited Trump policy, while Politico says Secretary of State Blinken is going to give his long-delayed and semi-widely-anticipated China policy speech on Thursday, which, no surprise, is said to contain little new or clarifying.
Thus, in conclusion, China is the story of the century and the United States has not figured out how to get more leverage over Xi.
Speaking of leverage, a new Associated Press poll suggests the motivation behind some recent White House actions – and why others might be pending:
Americans are becoming less supportive of punishing Russia for launching its invasion of Ukraine if it comes at the expense of the U.S. economy, a sign of rising anxiety over inflation and other challenges, according to a new poll.
While broad support for U.S. sanctions has not faltered, the balance of opinion on prioritizing sanctions over the economy has shifted, according to the poll from The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research. Now 45% of U.S. adults say the nation’s bigger priority should be sanctioning Russia as effectively as possible, while slightly more — 51% — say it should be limiting damage to the U.S. economy.
In April, those figures were exactly reversed. In March, shortly after Russia attacked Ukraine, a clear majority — 55% — said the bigger priority should be sanctioning Russia as effectively as possible.
Not necessarily linear causality, but this tweet from a White House press official is both unusual and filled with meaning:
Speaking of unaddressed problems almost a year and a half into a four-year term, the New York Times latest on the Biden administration’s immigration “policy” is essential reading:
Already though, many of the thousands of migrants crossing each day are being let in — of the record 234,088 migrants who arrived in April, nearly half were released into the country for various reasons, including humanitarian exceptions to the public health order and insufficient detention space. In some cases, the government cannot expel people — Cubans and Venezuelans, for example — because it has no diplomatic relations with the country of origin.
As the Biden administration sees about 8,200 border crossings a day — or nearly the population of College Station, Texas, entering the country every two weeks, far more than at this time last year — it is counting on small nonprofit organizations like La Posada Providencia to manage the influx into border cities and towns, helping to stave off politically explosive images of chaos and disorder ahead of the November midterms.
Speaking of essential reading, here are two more:
1. The New York Times asks all the right medical questions that political reporters don’t know how to ask about John Fetterman’s condition, treatment, and lack of transparency.
2.Rich Lowry’s column on how Georgia’s new voting law has led to massive early voting (rather than widespread disenfranchisement) should produce at least a dollop of soul-searching and bias evaluation in newsrooms from sea to shining sea. As soon as the Dominant Media is done rethinking its role on the Hunter Biden story, it shall get right on that.
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