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Diplomatic Flap over Ambassador Branstad Op-Ed for People’s Daily in China

Sept. 10, 2020 (EIRNS)—A major brouhaha is being created over the refusal of China’s People’s Daily to publish an op-ed from U.S. Ambassador Terry Branstad. While there was nothing egregiously wrong with the commentary, it was terribly negative and placed the blame for the U.S.-China difficulties totally with China and their lack of “reciprocity.” In his op-ed, Branstad praises the traditional openness policies of the U.S., but says nothing of the present administration’s attempt to put those policies on the chopping board, with hundreds of Chinese journalists now in the U.S. being refused visa renewals and 1,000 Chinese studying in the U.S. having their visas revoked. And many of the “violations” cited by Branstad are based on totally bogus claims, i.e., Huawei “stealing” technology from U.S. companies.

It comes as no surprise that People’s Daily, which has published previous Branstad pieces, would refuse such an article without significant editing. It is also out of character for Ambassador Branstad, who may have been under pressure from his boss, Pompeo, to write such an opinion piece . And it may have been meant to fail, giving Pompeo more leeway to crack down on Chinese journalists, and on Chinese Ambassador to Washington Cui Tiankai, who has been widely interviewed by the U.S. media, a fact that no doubt gets Big Mike’s goat.

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying had the same suspicion. In a couple of tweets, Hua said, “What the U.S. did is apparently irrelevant to freedom of the press. Clearly it is carefully choreographed to find fault with China. The proposed op-ed is just a decoy to trap China.” She also noted that David Stilwell, the Assistant Secretary of State for East Asia and the Pacific already lodged representations with the Chinese Embassy on the matter.

A former U.S. ambassador, Max Baucus, on the other hand, has been getting prime coverage in the Chinese press. Speaking at a videoconference sponsored by the U.S.-China Chamber of Commerce yesterday, Baucus said: “The U.S. cannot stop China’s rise and needs to find a way to get along with China. Efforts should be made to reach reconciliation and cooperate in some areas.... The rise of China cannot be stopped, and once Americans understand this, it will help improve U.S.-China relations.” Baucus said that the economies of the United States and China are interconnected and dependent on each other. “The United States needs to find a way to get along with China, and it should also make a longer-term strategic plan for China’s development. The two countries should respect each other and form a solid and fair relationship,” Baucus said. Baucus’s comments were covered widely by Xinhua and other Chinese media.

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