China’s Message to America: We’re an Equal Now

It quickly became obvious in Anchorage, Alaska, last month that Chinese President Xi Jinping’s diplomatic envoys hadn’t come carrying olive branches. Instead they brought a new world view.

As Biden administration officials expected in their first meeting with Chinese counterparts, Yang Jiechi, Mr. Xi’s top foreign-policy aide, and Foreign Minister Wang Yiasked them to roll back Trump-era policies targeting China. Beijing wanted to restore the kind of recurring “dialogue” Washington sees as a waste of time, say U.S. and Chinese officials briefed on the Alaska meeting.

Mr. Yang also delivered a surprise: a 16-minute lecture about America’s racial problems and democratic failings. The objective, say Chinese officials, was to make clear that Beijing sees itself as an equal of the U.S. He also warned Washington against challenging China over a mission Beijing views as sacred—the eventual reunification with Taiwan.

That is a big shift for Chinese leaders, who for decades took care not to challenge the U.S. as the world’s leader and followed the dictum Deng Xiaoping set decades ago: “Keep a low profile and bide your time.” Some senior Chinese officials privately—often sarcastically—called the U.S. Lao Da, or Big Boss.

Now Mr. Xi is reshaping the relationship. As far as he is concerned, China’s time has arrived.

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