A New Crossroads
Newly appointed Chinese Ambassador Qin Gang met for the first time with U.S. Deputy Secretary of State Wendy Sherman yesterday in his first official meeting since arriving in Washington. The two entered the conversation with the goal of elaborating on the recent Tianjin meetings and discussing future methods of communication. While Qin emphasized the importance of Taiwan in bilateral relations, he also expressed his ambitions for the China-U.S. relationship, stating that the two countries have arrived at a "new crossroads." He also highlighted his desire to "promote a rational, stable, manageable and constructive China-U.S. relationship."
Qin Gang's tenure has started on a constructive note, pushing for an end to COVID in the States. Qin's friendly image deviates from the range of more confrontational tactics recently exercised by other Chinese government officials, and it seems he was placed strategically in his role to maintain an open dialogue. While in quarantine, Qin has tweeted out that he wished for the two superpowers to cooperate on COVID relief for other countries. Read more on the bilateral relationship in, China Stands Up to America, by David Shambaugh.
China's zero-tolerance strategy for containing COVID is stoking greater fear in analysts of the inevitable economic impact on the world, as the highly contagious Delta variant continues to spread across China and beyond. This week, Beijing closed part of a globally important container port after a worker tested positive for the virus, increasing the likelihood of disruptions to the global supply chain. The move follows the cancellation of several large-scale events, the suspension of planes and trains traveling into Beijing from places with positive COVID cases, lockdowns, and more.
The zero-tolerance strategy has also led to multiple officials from the Nanjing Lukou International Airport, where the current Delta outbreak in China is believed to have started, to be punished for "allowing the virus to spread," according to state media reports. Some have been detained and others subject to investigation. Over 40 officials across China have been disciplined for negligence and failure to contain virus outbreaks. The officials varied from health commissions and heads of local governments, to officials at airports and hospitals.
With the recent surge, China's GDP is expected to take a hit in the third quarter. Analysts from Goldman Sachs predict China's GDP will grow by only 2.3%, instead of the 5.8% initially forecasted. Consumption and the service sector are expected to see the most dramatic downturns.
Michael Spavor, a Canadian national who organized tours into North Korea while based in China, was sentenced to 11 years in prison by China's courts over charges of espionage. The timing of his 2018 arrest coincided with the detention of Meng Wanzhou in Canada. Meng, a Huawei executive who is also the daughter of the company's founder, has been held in Canada throughout an ongoing U.S.extradition case. The U.S. is seeking to hold Meng accountable for allegedly defying U.S. sanctions on Iran. Speculation is rife that Spavor's arrest was politically motivated in order to resolve the Meng case in China's favor.
Spavor's sentencing indicates a new step for China in the tense situation. Analysts say that sentencing a Canadian citizen in this context can be seen as turning up the pressure on Canada to release Meng from detention.