Exclusive: China blasts US plot of ‘authorized exit’ of diplomats ahead of Olympics
US confusing logic: Evacuate from China to get infected easily?
Published: Jan 26, 2022 01:40 AM
US Embassy in China  Photo: cnsphoto

US Embassy in China Photo: cnsphoto

The US State Department is considering allowing its embassy and consulates to authorize the departure of their employees in China, citing "China's epidemic situation," a source familiar with the matter told the Global Times late Tuesday night. 

While the Chinese Foreign Ministry expressed serious concerns and dissatisfaction over such a plan, Chinese experts said by politicizing China's anti-epidemic work, such ill-intentioned tactics expose only the true intention of Washington in sabotaging the Winter Olympic Games and its inconsistent China policy. 

Such authorized departure needs to be approved by senior officials from the State Department, which aims at specific emergencies for US institutions overseas. And authorized departure gives US government employees at US embassies the option to depart if they wish and when their departure is not required. 

Since the initial outbreak of novel coronavirus epidemic in January 2020, the US unilaterally announced a temporary shutdown of the US consulate in Wuhan, Central China's Hubei Province and evacuated its staff. Recently, the US has been conducting a number of acts in instigating and sabotaging the Winter Olympics in Beijing. 

Such tricks ahead of the Chinese New Year and the Winter Games showed its true intention, which is beyond the anti-epidemic consideration but only serves to create panic, slander China's anti-epidemic work and disrupt China's successful hosting of the Winter Olympics.

Western media such as CNN and Reuters reported similar stories. CNN reported on Wednesday that the US diplomatic mission in China formally requested the State Department to grant American diplomats "authorized departure," allowing them and their families to leave the country amid China's seemingly increasingly strict COVID-19 containment measures, citing unnamed sources. 

Reuters said the US State Department is considering this plan as the US embassy had sent the request to Washington for a formal sign-off, given the strict COVID-19 protocols that China has been taking ahead of the Winter Olympics. 

Confusing mind-set
The logic behind the US' decision is confusing and hardly justifiable. China has expressed grave concern and dissatisfaction over this to the US side, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Zhao Lijian said on Wednesday, noting China is undoubtedly the safest country at present. Evacuating from the safest place in the world will only expose US personnel to much greater risks of infection. 

According to data from Worldmeters, a real-time statistics site, as of press time on Wednesday, the US has more than 72 million coronavirus infection cases and a death toll of 891,595. US media reported that cities and states are still struggling with a high demand for hospital services due to the spread of the Omicron variant, and in the past 24 hours, there have been 789,789 new confirmed cases and 1,583 new deaths. 

About 2,000 Americans are dying from COVID-19 each day, ticking up from December. COVID-19 deaths, which often lag days to weeks behind outbreaks, are still increasing nationally.

In contrast, 4,636 patients died as a result of the virus infections on the Chinese mainland since the onset of the pandemic. And the toll has remained unchanged for almost a year, the Xinhua News Agency reported on Saturday.

Considering the string of provocations made by the US recently to sabotage the Beijing Winter Olympic Games, the US' plan to release the authorized departure ahead of the Olympic Games and the Spring Festival means no good. Its purpose is not about concerns over coronavirus but more about causing public panic, smearing China's achievements in fighting the pandemic, and disturbing the Beijing Winter Olympic Games, analysts said. 

China is one of the safest places in the world, with its scientific and precise prevention measures winning applause, and its effective anti-epidemic strategy is well recognized which is in sharp contrast to the US' continuous chaos and failure in dealing with the pandemic, they noted. 

Following its announcement of a "diplomatic boycott" of Beijing Winter Olympic Games in December, the plan is the latest trick played in less than 10 days before the Games, Li Haidong, a professor at the Institute of International Relations of the China Foreign Affairs University, told the Global Times on late Tuesday. 

"What the US wants is, when you are preparing for a happy occasion, it is purposely making chaos," Li said, noting that in the eyes of the US, the Winter Olympic Games is not a big sports event, and China's prevention work is not the regular governance of "a normal country" and all these are measures for China to expand its influence so they have to be attacked by all means.  

When US Secretary of State Antony Blinken referred to the US government's China approach, he used an old saying that "if you're not at the table, you'll probably be on the menu. We are and will remain at the table" at the Fran Eizenstat and Eizenstat Family Memorial Lecture Series, according to a statement released on the website of the State Department on Monday.

Li said that this is the US' logic of China-US relations, and in order not to help China with the Winter Olympics, it will sabotage it. 

Politicizing the anti-epidemic work 
A US diplomatic source familiar with the discussions told CNN the request was made after several diplomats and their families expressed fears over China's tightening anti- COVID measures in recent months, including snap lockdowns and quarantines that could potentially separate underage children from parents.

China's epidemic prevention and control protocols are rigorous and science-based, Zhao said, noting that China's effective measures have well protected foreign nationals in China. 

"They are in line with provisions in the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations and the Vienna Convention on Consular Relations. We have made diplomatic and consular staff in China feel comfortable and protected their legitimate rights and interests," he said. 

While there have been no incidents of diplomats being separated from their children, according to the media report, these so-called growing worries not only exposed the cultural differences but also signaled an "America First" or "America-based" mind-set, Yang Xiyu, a senior research fellow at the China Institute of International Studies in Beijing, told the Global Times on Wednesday. 

"There's a huge gap of understanding on anti-epidemic work between the two countries, which is decided on the basis of their own situations. This is a fact," he said. 

However, as long as there's political bias integrated into such a different understanding, such bias would distort China's anti-epidemic work and even politicize it, Yang noted. 

Some Chinese netizens also mocked such plan of allowing the US embassy and consulates to authorize the departure of their employees in China by citing "China's epidemic situation." A netizen surnamed Yang said on Sina Weibo that "vice versa, should all the embassies and consulates of foreign countries in the US consider a similar move given the severe epidemic situation in the US?" 

Inconsistent, risky polices
On the same day as the US mulled such a plan, the new US ambassador to China, Nicholas Burns, was sworn in. Experts also see other mixed signals in China-US relations. For example, the latest suspension of China-bound flights, and visa applications for 18 US officials to the Winter Olympics after the Biden administration launched a "diplomatic boycott" of the Games. 

In the coming months until the end of the Olympics, Washington may take more actions as provocations against China and sabotage the sports event,and it will pull as more allies as possible to join it, Li said. 

The US suspended 44 China-bound flights from the US by four Chinese airlines on Friday. The suspension will begin on January 30, marking the latest development on disputes over international flights and anti-epidemic rules between the two countries. Such a decision was slammed by the Chinese Foreign Ministry on Monday, calling it an unreasonable and extremely irresponsible act that ignored passengers' health and safety.

The US' attempts to play the card of COVID-19 to further politicize sports and pressure China are doomed to fail and will only push itself against the international community and make itself the laughing stock, analysts said. 

Making such a plan for authorized departures further proves that in the face of an overall stable and positive situation in China, the US intends to create more trouble to divert attention from the chaotic situation at home where its economy is now on the brink of collapse, and Washington needs to instigate a crisis overseas to attract oversea capital to the US, Lü Xiang, a research fellow at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, told the Global Times on Tuesday. 

It's now in the situation: either passive governance or governance that leads to a mess. "Americans understand the risks they face domestically, so they escalate tensions with Russia, and now with China," Lü said. According to Lü, by hyping such an unrealistic plan of withdrawing its diplomatic staff and relevant personnel, the US government could create such a false image that the situation in China is intense, and US diplomatic staff are ready to leave anytime. 

As long as a significant turmoil occurs outside the US, international capital would flow back to the US, as the US government hopes, "but I don't think it will work," the expert said.  

Besides such an ill-intentioned trick of planning to authorize the departure of embassy staff, would the US come up with other tactics such as instigating tensions in the South China Sea and the Taiwan Straits? Lü warned that all kinds of preparation work need to be done as the possibility of the US government taking riskier moves can't be excluded. 

Li also warned that China should not be too optimistic about the US' moves and should make full preparations and take firm countermeasures.