Washington is reportedly worried that Beijing’s large and high-level delegation could undermine its diplomatic clout
US diplomats are scrambling to hold on to their influence in Switzerland, as their Chinese counterparts attempt to woo the country’s top officials during the World Economic Forum in Davos, Politico reported on Monday, citing sources.
The outlet said American officials were so alarmed by the size of the Chinese delegation at the event that they rushed to arrange a meeting between US Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Swiss President Viola Amherd to ensure Washington does not lose influence in the Alpine country, famed for its neutrality and status as a mediation powerhouse.
Politico cited an internal State Department memo dated January 12 as outlining US strategy in this regard. It reportedly warns that Beijing “will have 10 state ministers in attendance,” with Scott Miller, the US ambassador in Bern, suggesting the delegation had all the hallmarks of a “pseudo state visit.”
The document reportedly further underscores the importance China attaches to the trip, noting that the delegation was to be headed by Premier Li Qiang, described in the memo as the “No. 2” to Chinese leader Xi Jinping.
“Miller believes it would be bad optics if S[ecretary] doesn’t at least have a handshake with new Pres of Swiss Confederation,” the paper is said to note, adding that Amherd “has made herself completely available” for a sit down.
Meanwhile, Li and Amherd held talks on Monday, bolstering an already existing free trade agreement and discussing cooperation and mediation issues. China has also agreed to grant Swiss citizens visa-free entry.
At the same time, a spokesperson for the State Department told Politico that Blinken was also expected to meet with Swiss officials, although the exact timing remains unclear. The top US diplomat will be in Davos on Tuesday and Wednesday and is likely to meet Ukrainian President Vladimir Zelensky, as well as a number of Western leaders, according to the article.
Washington’s apparent effort to step up its diplomatic game comes just as it has once again locked horns with Beijing in the aftermath of the presidential election in Taiwan, which China considers part of its sovereign territory.
After the US congratulated Taiwanese President-elect William Lai, who is a supporter of a pro-independence course, China stated that this message sent a “gravely wrong signal,” and protested the US having “any form of official interaction with Taiwan and interfering in Taiwan affairs.”
January 16, 2024 at 03:09PM