The Biden administration is being slammed as handing a “major coup” to Chinese President Xi Jinping following two senior officials’ trip to China Sunday in an attempt to ease tensions between the two countries. Immediately, critics pointed out that Sunday, June 4, marks the 34th anniversary of the Tiananmen Square massacre, when the Chinese military murdered hundreds, or possibly thousands, of pro-democracy protestors.
The assistant secretary of state for East Asia and Pacific affairs, Daniel Kritenbrink, along with Sarah Beran, the National Security Council’s senior director for Taiwan and China affairs, arrived in Beijing to discuss “key issues in the bilateral relational,” said a press release from the State Department. California GOP Representative Darrell Issa called attention to the trip’s timing on Twitter.
“Is the Biden Administration sending senior officials to China as we remember the anniversary of the massacre in Tiananmen Square?” wrote Issa.
Issa serves on the House Foreign Affairs Committee and maintains that the trip only benefits Chinese President Xi Jinping and China while weakening the position of the United States on the world stage.
“This is no ordinary foreign policy stumble,” said Issa. “It’s a concession demanded by the Chinese and granted by a White House and State Department willing to bend. It’s a major coup for Xi, and America’s position in the world just got weaker — where it matters most.”
“There’s no way the Congress can just look away and let this go,” added Issa.
Almost two hours after the first press release, the State Department released another one that honored the anniversary of Tiananmen Square.
“Tomorrow, we observe the 34th anniversary of the Tiananmen Square Massacre,” said the release. “On June 4, 1989, the Government of the People’s Republic of China (PRC) sent tanks into Tiananmen Square to brutally repress peaceful Chinese pro-democracy protestors and bystanders alike.”
“The victims’ bravery will not be forgotten and continues to inspire advocates for these principles around the world,” added the State Department’s statement. “The United States will continue advocating for people’s human rights and fundamental freedoms in China and around the world.”
Issa’s office said he intends to send Secretary of State Antony Blinken a letter to demand answers about the trip to China.
A spokesperson for the State Department told Reuters that Kritenbrink’s official meetings would start Monday and that he would raise the issue of human rights in the country that remains Communist.
A fellow in the Indo-Pacific Studies at the American Foreign Policy Council, Michael Sobolik, responded to the press release about the China visit by asking, “Is this a joke?”
The CEO of Strategic Risks, Isaac Stone Fish, the organization which “quantifies corporate exposure to China,” and a visiting fellow at the Atlantic Council offered a “pro-tip” on Twitter, saying, “Don’t be a senior government official visiting China on the anniversary of Tiananmen Square.”
China, U.S. dialogue has been at a standstill recently
In recent months, dialogue between Beijing and the Biden administration has nearly been dormant as attempts at interactions have been shuttered since the United States shot down a Chinese surveillance balloon that traveled across the country earlier in the year.
A trip previously scheduled by Blinken, where he expected to meet with Xi, was thought to have been canceled because of the incident with the spy balloon. The China-U.S. relationship has continued to be strained over China’s military activity in the South China Sea and the U.S.’s support of Taiwan.
In addition, Beijing has taken umbrage after the United States warned China against arming Russia to help its war in Ukraine. CIA Director William Burns secretly visited China last month to rebuild relations, meeting with his Chinese counterparts to emphasize “the importance of maintaining open lines of communication in intelligence channels,” said the Financial Times, which reported first on the visit.