Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen made two diplomatic mistakes Saturday when greeting her counterpart from China, according to The New York Post.
First, Yellen bowed multiple times to China’s Vice Premier He Lifeng, who did not reciprocate the gesture, according to footage of the event. Yellen then proceeded to bungle Lifeng’s name just moments later, calling her diplomatic counterpart “Vice Premier Hu,” according to The New York Post.
Yellen bowed at least three times while Lifeng backed away slightly to provide President Joe Biden’s top economy official more space to bow, according to the Post. Yellen is the latest Biden administration official to visit China in an effort to soothe escalating tensions between the two world powers.
“Never, ever, ever,” Bradley Blakeman, a former senior staff member in George W. Bush’s administration, said to the Post of Yellen’s gestures. “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.” (RELATED: US Embassy Choir Sang ‘Soulful’ Rendition Of Chinese National Anthem At Fourth Of July Event In Beijing)
“Bowing is not part of the accepted protocol,” Jerome Cohen, an emeritus professor at New York University and expert in Chinese law and government, said of the incident to the Post.
State Department protocol does not encourage diplomats to bow to foreign officials, according to ABC News.
That much bowing is definitely excessive and gives the appearance of submission. It’s embarrassing.pic.twitter.com/0pXcIao1a1
— Indo-Pacific News – Geo-Politics & Military News (@IndoPac_Info) July 9, 2023
“The way to treat an adversary is, you don’t go hat in hand,” Blakeman added. “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.”
As part of her pitch to the Chinese, Yellen attempted to persuade the leadership of the globe’s most polluting country to step up its efforts against climate change.
“I strongly believe that the relationship between our two countries is rooted in the solid ties between the American and Chinese people,” Yellen said in her initial remarks. “It is important that we keep nurturing and deepening these ties.”
The slip-ups come as China has retaliated against U.S. computer chip export restrictions by imposing its own export controls on key minerals used in the production of a host of important technologies. A CCP official warned Wednesday that the mineral export controls were “just a start” if Washington is to continue restricting Chinese access to key products, according to Reuters.
Chinese Xi Jinping promoted Lifeng to his current post in March 2023.
The Treasury Department did not immediately respond to the Daily Caller News Foundation’s request for comment.
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