Diplomatic Decoupling With China

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Since at least Fall 2020, American diplomats in China have quietly suffered. So have their families. Using the excuse of the pandemic, the regime in Beijing imprisoned as many as 30 diplomats and family members “in locked rooms and often squalid conditions,” according to The Wall Street Journal.

“These people and other arriving diplomats have also been subject to multiple and unnecessary medical tests; forced to undergo months of quarantine and family separation; and they are monitored and controlled by China’s online ‘health’ app,” according to the Journal’s editorial board.

This abuse violates U.S. policies against using the pandemic to mistreat diplomats. A July 2020 State Department policy banned U.S. diplomatic travel to countries that forced COVID-19 testing of diplomats and families by foreigners or quarantined them in foreign government facilities.

The Chinese Communist Party (CCP) refused to back down and, instead of standing firm, the Biden administration caved on two occasions, signing waivers that allowed the regime in Beijing to test and quarantine U.S. diplomats and their families.

But the regime went further than even the Department of State waivers allowed. The Journal saw a 97-page memo by whistleblowers describing a nightmare of restrictions imposed on U.S. diplomats and families, including children. Along with adults, they were isolated alone in moldy “fever clinic” rooms, with one teen reportedly driven into mental health problems as a result.

Secretary of State Antony Blinken should be ashamed.

“Americans were monitored and suspect the Chinese are collecting intelligence and DNA,” according to the Journal. Diplomats think the regime altered test results to harass families and achieve more control.

Epoch Times Photo
A technician works at a DNA tech lab in Beijing on August 22, 2018. (Greg Baker/AFP/Getty Images)

“According to a whistleblower complaint, the fever clinics are small, dirty rooms (we’ve seen pictures)—some located in converted shipping containers,” according to the board. “The doors are locked and the windows barred. Upon arrival, individuals were required to undergo nasal and throat swabs, to provide sputum, urine and stool samples, and to submit to EKGs and CT scans.”

Adult-sized nasal swabs were used on children, causing nosebleeds and requiring their forcible restraint for repeated invasive procedures. Their parents reported ongoing trauma. Detainees had to beg for water and other essentials, including soap and toilet paper, or wait for them to arrive via care packages.

“Food was minimal, and one family reported their children largely received soup for every meal,” according to the Journal. “Detainees reported notable weight loss.”

Americans had to wait weeks or months for the regime to provide the negative COVID tests needed to leave quarantine. One family spent two months in a fever clinic, during which family members had to undergo a cumulative 159 blood, throat, and nose tests. Another family lost their freedom for 69 days.

The regime denied regular medical care to American detainees, including a child who needed stitches for a deep cut, and a man with stomach pain who was later diagnosed with appendicitis.

All U.S. diplomats must use the regime health app, which tends to go red when they want to travel, impeding their movement on official business.

“Whistleblowers say they’re concerned the Chinese are using the app to track their movements and employing changing definitions of close contacts to target diplomats for additional quarantine,” writes the board.

U.S. Ambassador Nicholas Burns reportedly negotiated away some of the mistreatment, to his credit. But that “doesn’t explain why State this spring agreed to another ‘inviolability’ waiver that allows Chinese contact tracing,” according to the board.

Secretary of State Blinken has some explaining to do. The American people want to know why their representatives are being dragged through the mud in Beijing, apparently with the consent of the State Department.

Epoch Times Photo
A passenger shows a green QR code on his phone to show his health status to security upon arrival at the Wenzhou railway station in Wenzhou, China on Feb. 28, 2020. (Noel Celis/AFP via Getty Images)

The Wall Street Journal calls the regime’s treatment of diplomats “inhumane” and “shocking.”

The State Department, in charge of protecting American diplomats abroad, did little in actuality, repeatedly signing waivers to allow Beijing’s violation of U.S. policy.

This forced whistleblowers within the State Department to go to Congress for help. Congress is leaking documents about the issue when it should be legislating an end to the abuse.

The U.S. government must stop looking the other way and kowtowing to Beijing, unless it wants the world to start treating Xi Jinping like the world emperor he wants to be.

The violation of U.S. diplomatic immunity makes clear that it is time to decouple American diplomats from China. Some diplomats are already cutting their assignments in China short, and prospective newcomers are discouraged by the mistreatment from going in the first place.

The regime in Beijing has mistreated our diplomats and their families so atrociously, and with so little sense of respect and dignity, as to require either a diplomatic decoupling or a loss of face by not only our diplomats, but America itself.

To save any sense of diplomatic self-respect upon which America’s global soft power relies, the United States must take action. We simply cannot allow U.S. diplomats to be routinely tested, caged, forced to live in squalid conditions, denied health care, and otherwise humiliated, while also holding our heads high on the international stage.

Diplomatic decoupling will weaken the U.S. diplomatic mission in China, including diplomatic services. But it will also have major repercussions for the CCP.

When we decouple our diplomats from China, we must also decouple the regime’s diplomats from America. They should be sent home in equal measure. This is reciprocity, the foundation for a return of American diplomatic self-respect and eventually—after China’s democratization, if that happy day ever comes—normal relations with Beijing.

Views expressed in this article are the opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Epoch Times.

Anders Corr

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Anders Corr has a bachelor’s/master’s in political science from Yale University (2001) and a doctorate in government from Harvard University (2008). He is a principal at Corr Analytics Inc., publisher of the Journal of Political Risk, and has conducted extensive research in North America, Europe, and Asia. His latest books are “The Concentration of Power: Institutionalization, Hierarchy, and Hegemony” (2021) and “Great Powers, Grand Strategies: the New Game in the South China Sea” (2018).



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