New Report About Biden Reaching out to China Raises New Questions About Who's in Charge

AP Photo/Alex Brandon

NBC broke a fascinating story about Joe Biden and China, according to their sources. This raises all kinds of questions, including about who is in charge at the White House.


Joe Biden wanted to speak with Chinese President Xi Jinping in the days after the U.S. military shot down a Chinese surveillance balloon off the coast of South Carolina — even saying publicly that he expected to do so — but his top national security advisers talked him out of it, according to two senior administration officials and one former senior U.S. official familiar with the discussions.

Biden believed his relationship with Xi could help tamp down the newly escalated tensions with Beijing if he had the opportunity to speak directly and smooth things over, the officials said. But the president’s advisers made the case to him that it was not the right time for a leader-to-leader conversation, the officials said. Instead, Biden’s advisers told him, the best course of action was to begin outreach to Beijing with lower or midlevel officials, and work the way up to the top, according to the officials.

The first question I have is who spied on who here? It’s the Chinese who spied on us and have been making all kinds of aggressive moves. Yet Biden acts like we’re the ones in the wrong here. Like he has to go “smooth things over” (in the words of the officials) and kowtow to the Chinese.


As I reported at the time, Biden said the U.S. wasn’t “looking for conflict”. But that’s the exact time you’re supposed to make a strong face to the Chinese, not act like everything is normal when they’ve made some pretty offensive and aggressive moves toward us. This is the height of weakness from Biden, and it’s a big loss of face to the Chinese. No wonder they think they can run right over him. He also said the relationship hadn’t taken a “big hit” and he knew that because he spoke to them.

Yet, who did he speak to? He didn’t speak to Xi. You can see even in that interview he didn’t admit — until he was pressed — that he hadn’t spoken directly to Xi over this matter.

Then this also raises the question of who’s in charge here. If he wants to talk to China, isn’t he in charge? Of course, it’s also a bad move, because you should be freezing them out and maybe only having lower-level discussions, the staff is right. But that’s Joe being Joe, as Obama Sec. of Defense Robert Gates said — wrong on everything for four decades. But I’m guessing they also didn’t want him to talk to Xi because with Joe being Joe, he might say something that would only make the matter worse.


But then whoever is in charge messed up anyway, sending U.S. officials to talk with the Chinese in Beijing on the anniversary of the Tiananmen Square Massacre there. That was a huge mistake that sent a signal that they didn’t care about the Chinese oppressing their people.

The Biden team is denying the report, but their word, given their history, isn’t worth much.

“The goal is not to get Biden and Xi on the phone,” a senior administration official told NBC. The goal is to get the U.S.-China “relationship back on track.”

Oh. Then why did they keep telling us a phone call would be coming?

A former senior U.S. official told NBC that White House officials “want to calm the waters with China, so they are trying to get visits by Cabinet officials in place.” Part of the strategy in advising Biden not to call Xi is “so it doesn’t look like Biden is pleading for talks,” the official said.

Except that’s exactly what it looks like, with the Chinese blowing him off. And it looks like it’s the Chinese are in charge, with Joe Biden in office.


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