Sanctions Impede Diplomacy (Again)
Sanctions naturally provoke animosity and resistance, and the government affected by them tends to become even less cooperative than before.
The Biden administration’s tentative outreach to the Chinese government is running into an obstacle created by U.S. sanctions:
China has formally told the US that Li wouldn’t be on equal footing with Austin if the sanctions stayed in place, according to people familiar with China’s stance who asked not to be identified discussing private conversations. They said China has said the meeting can go ahead only if the sanctions are lifted.
That has presented President Joe Biden with an unappetizing choice — keep the sanctions and lose the meeting, or lift them and risk courting scorn among China hawks in Washington that he’s caving to pressure from Beijing.
Sanctions on top foreign officials might be appropriate under certain circumstances, but they make it much harder to engage diplomatically with those officials. Even if Defense Secretary Austin is not prohibited from meeting with Li, the sanctions give the Chinese government a ready-made excuse not to participate. It is much harder to manage an important bilateral relationship when one side has sanctions on the top officials of the other, and if a relationship like this isn’t managed well it will tend to deteriorate to the detriment of both states.