I was pleasantly surprised a couple of months ago to get a call from Wang Fang Pi of the Chinese Political Affairs branch in New York, an old friend. Fang Pi headed the speech-writing office. I had met him in a press bar in Bangkok while on a junket for the Washington Times and we had stayed in touch for a while.
He told me that he had been assigned the writing of a speech to be delivered by the Chinese consul before the United Nations in answer to charges of Chinese aggression by Tony Blinken. Would I, off the record, help him write the thing?
To one unfamiliar with the workings of the national press it might seem strange that he would ask this of me, a retired mid-rank journalist of no national importance. But in the hothouse world of Washington’s press, who you know often counts for more than whether you are famous. He said that he had always liked my style and that, although a graduate of Harvard, he was not confident of his mastery of the fine points of English. Shang I Hau, the diplomatic functionary who would deliver the speech, was incensed at China’s being accused of aggressiveness by Blinken. Would I write something that was clear and, though he didn’t use the phrase, pulled no punches? No contract was involved, no payment.
Really, this is how things are done. It meant for me a long afternoon and an email to Fang Pi, which he might use, ignore, or pick bits from. Since Violeta and I were leaving the next day for a back-country trip with no internet, I had to get busy right away. OK, fair enough.
I had never met Blinken as he became SecState well after I left Washington. An hour’s Googling andhe came forth from the web fog as pretty much generic Washington, brightish, somewhat egotistical, and perhaps too self-confident, too much a believer in American omnipotence, meaning he was given more to issuing orders than negotiating. OK, nothing new here.
But how to counter charges of Chinese aggressiveness?
Over a few hours I came up with, after the usual courtesies, ladies and gentlemen, etc., the following:
“Let us ponder Mr. Blinken’s charge that we Chinese are aggressors.
“Let me ask the representatives of the countries of Europe: How many Chinese occupation troops are in Europe? None. How many military bases in Europe does China have? None. How many does it want? None. The United States has tens of Thousands of troops in bases all through Europe. While we are on the topice, how many wars is NATO currently fueling? China, none. Are you quite sure China is the aggressor?
“How many military bases does China have outside of China? One, small, in Djibouti. How many do the NATO powers, controlled by the United States, have? Over seven hundred. Are you sure China is an aggressor? Are not the Europeans peoples the aggressors?
“I will ask the representatives of the nations of Africa: Have you a history of centuries of invasion by China? By Russia? By India? Or by the European peoples? What country today routinely bombs Somalia? Constructs military bases? Is AFRICOM Chinese? It is not. Are you sure we are the aggressors?
“Permit me to ask the representatives of the nations of Latin America: How many coups has China engineered in your countries? How many has it tried to engineer? How many invasions and military incursions? Can you think of a country that often does these things to you? Are we sure that China is the aggressor
“Mr. Blinken has said that China is authoritarian. This does not suit him. He thinks we should change our ways to his satisfaction.
“Why is China’s form of government, or any other country’s form of government, Mr. Blinken’s concern? America constantly meddles in the government of other nations and tells them how they must manage themselves. Does China do this? Are we sure that China is the aggressor?
“China does not point out that America’s government is ineffective, chaotic, and unsuited to modern economies, that Americais increasingly technologically backward, has frequent race riots from mismanagement of its society, that its levels of crime are an astonishment to the rest of us.
“ Mr. Blinken tells us how to run our countries. America wishes to instruct China. Should Americans not first learn to manage America? Are we sure that China is an aggressor?
“China is a sovereign country. Allow me to point out to Germany’s representatives that Germany is not. It, like the rest of Europe, is an American vassal. You are frightened of the Americans. When Washington destroyed the Nordstreams—it was not China—irreparably damaging your economy, Germany responded with studied puzzlement. Who could have done it? You know, the wholeworld knows, but if you admit it, you would have to do something about it—and there is nothing you can do. Washington owns you. China does not.
“You are not sovereign. What if you asked “America to remove its forces—and it refused?
“For the record, how many pipelines has China blown up? Are we sure it is the aggressor?”
Having written this in hopes of augmenting international amity, I emailed it to Fang Pi and Violeta and I left for two weeks in the remote Sierra Madre. I was feeling a bit smug. Of course I didn’t think that anything I did would actually promote a peaceful foreign policy in Washington, but at least I would be on the right side of that river. But on return to Ajijic, I learned that Fang Pi had not gotten my email and my hard drive had been wiped clean. This had CIA fingerprints all over it. What had I done to deserve this? Was it something I said?