On her first trip to China as Treasury Secretary, Janet Yellen was criticized after a video showed her bowing multiple times to Chinese Vice Premier He Lifeng on Saturday. Critics said it signaled American weakness, which the Chinese government loves.
Bradley Blakeman, a former senior staffer in George W. Bush’s White House told the New York Post, “Never, ever, ever - An American official does not bow. It looks like she’s been summoned to the principal’s office, and that’s exactly the optics the Chinese love.”
“The way to treat an adversary is, you don’t go hat in hand,” he continued. “But with this administration, time and time again, we embarrass ourselves and show weakness. And it just shows the lack of effective leverage we have.”
“She did not realize bowing as an American official was a breach of protocol,” commented author Max Murray. "They don't reciprocate. He even backs away to give her more space to kowtow."
“Bowing is not part of the accepted protocol,” said NYU professor and expert in Chinese law and government Jerome A. Cohen.
According to the Daily Mail, Yellen was the second US diplomat that has visited China in five years and was part of the Biden administration's attempt to improve communication and ease tensions between the two nations.
She told reporters at the US embassy on Sunday, “We believe that the world is big enough for both of our countries to thrive.” She continued, “Both nations have an obligation to responsibly manage this relationship: to find a way to live together and share in global prosperity.”
She said that even though there are “significant disagreements” between the two countries, talks were “direct, substantive, and productive.” She added that they “served as a step forward in our effort to put the US-China relationship on surer footing.”
“I feel confident that we will have more frequent and regular communication,” she concluded.
She opened the meeting with the vice premier saying, “I strongly believe that the relationship between our two countries is rooted in the solid ties between the American and Chinese people ... It is important that we keep nurturing and deepening these ties.”
Yellen discussed a healthy economic competition between the two nations “that is not winner-take-all.” She continued, “Where we have concerns about specific economic practices, we should and will communicate them directly.”
Secretary of State Antony Blinken visited the country last month to open up communication between the countries. Just following his visit, President Biden angered Chinese President Xi Jinping by calling him a “dictator.”
Former Secretary of State and member of President Biden's special envoy for climate change, John Kerry, is expected to visit the communist country later this year.
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