Why did Sherman visit Tianjin 2021 July 25-26?

HC Lee

2021 July 30

On July 25-26, seemingly without clear purpose, and after several twist and turns, the US Deputy State Secretary Wendy Sherman made a hastily arranged visit to China and had meetings with Chinese officials. Why?

Here is how related events unfolded. On July 7, there were wide international reports on Kurt Campbell, coordinator for Indo-Pacific affairs on the US national security council, saying the previous day: "We support a strong unofficial relationship with Taiwan. We do not support Taiwan independence."

At about the same time the US began to eagerly push for a visit to China by Sherman to meet State Councilor Wang Yi. China responded by suggesting that Sherman's visit be hosted by Deputy Foreign Minister (one of several) Xie Feng, not Wang Yi, and that the meeting be held in Tianjin, not Beijing. Although the US initially resisted this counter proposal, presumably sensing it as a slight, it was eventually accepted and an agreement for a July 25-26 visit was reached on July 21.

In the following two days, the western media were full of the guardrail reports that referred to what was said to be the purpose of the pending visit. According to Ned Price, state department spokesperson, on July 22: "(the administration is) keen to ensure there were guardrails in the relationship and that competition did not spill over into conflict".

Sherman arrived in Tianjin without fanfare on July 25. On July 26, Chinese and US delegations, led by Xie and Sherman respectively, held a four-hour meeting, during which, among other things, the China side presented to the US side two lists of grievances. In the short Wang-Sherman meeting, Wang set out three red lines for the US.

A July 26 readout by State spokesperson Ned Price, entirely ignoring the Xie-Sherman meeting, stated that Wang and Sherman "discussed ways to set terms for responsible management of the U.S-China relationship." and that Sherman said the US "does not seek conflict with the PRC."

Chinese based media China News and Global Times reported during the Wang-Sherman meeting Sherman restated the US's one-China policy and stated that the US does not support Taiwan independence. However, I have not found this reported in the western media.

We have to ask why Rice Fruit was so eager to have the meeting. What was it that it so urgently wanted to tell Plant Fruit?

I do not believe it has anything to do with the US's economy.

If we remember what Kurt Campbell said about Terrace Bay on July 7, all the guardrail talks in the WMSM just prior to Sherman's departure, and what Sherman said to Wang during their meeting: "we do not seek conflict with (you)", we begin to be able to make a guess: RF does not wish PF to take action against TB, which RF apparently perceives to be imminent.

And why? Because if and when PF did, RF would not take any action aside from talk, and the emperor would be seen to be naked.

On July 30, the day after the above was written, a 石齐平 commentary on the Sherman visit appeared on the Phoenix TV program 《石評大財經》台灣問題 中美終將實力對決. The commentary agrees with my conjecture. Then, after in depth and detailed analyses, it offers its opinion on what RF might do to avoid being put into an awkward military position in the TB matter: use the future of TB as a bargaining chip to negatiate with PF to forestall any PF military action on TB.

© HC Lee, July 30, 2021, Taoyuan, Taiwan