Breaking: Chinese Diplomat Cornered and Berated Congressional Aide at Other Embassies’ Events

Chinese diplomats have escalated their bullying of Congress over Taiwan, in one case even sending personnel to harass a congressional aide at gatherings hosted by the embassies of other countries, National Review has learned.

These incidents, reported here for the first time, mark a new escalation of the sort of Wolf Warrior–diplomacy pursued by China's embassy in the United States. Highly unusual in themselves, the interactions follow other stepped-up efforts in recent months to aggressively push Beijing's line on U.S. soil, including the embassy's collaboration with a since-fired congressional aide to arrange meetings for Chinese diplomats with other Hill staffers.

The incident with the congressional aide occurred at a recent event hosted by the embassy of a Southeast Asian country. The aide was standing with a group of people when a Chinese diplomat approached, singling him out, as the aide told NR on condition of anonymity.

The Chinese diplomat, a member of the embassy's political team, told the congressional aide that his boss's support of Taiwan would cause a war and that this lawmaker would be responsible for it. The diplomat's complaints grew so aggressive and loud that others nearby stepped away from the conversation. The interaction lasted about a half hour.

Then, two weeks later, at an event hosted by a different embassy in Washington, the same Chinese diplomat, accompanied by his deputy, approached that aide again with similar complaints. The staffer told NR that he viewed the two incidents as attempts at coercion and intelligence-gathering. China's embassy in Washington did not respond to an email asking about its cornering of congressional staff at other embassies' events.

That had surprised the congressional staffer, who works on foreign policy, because he had previously had normal, professional interactions with the Chinese embassy, including a meeting with one official set up through official channels.

Through other channels over the past year, Beijing has publicly, and loudly, opposed congressional efforts to forge closer ties with Taipei, issuing blistering threats in response to legislation and congressional members' trips to the island. The intimidation campaign reached a peak with the military drills that followed House speaker Nancy Pelosi's visit to Taiwan in August.

Past intimidation efforts have often taken the form of letter-writing campaigns. Now, as other members of Congress have visited Taiwan following Pelosi's trip, Beijing has continued to respond with fury, in some cases even leveling political threats.

Last month, a staffer in the office of Representative Michael Waltz (R., Fla.) received an email from a Chinese embassy employee just ahead of Waltz's departure for Taiwan. The email, provided last week to NR (and first reported on by Semafor), reiterated long-standing Chinese Communist Party talking points regarding Beijing's purported sovereignty over the country.

It also made a thinly veiled threat to undermine Waltz's state in retaliation: "If Rep. Michael Waltz visits Taiwan at this time for whatever reasons, it will not help with the stability of the situation," wrote the embassy employee. "It will only further damage China-US relations. It will only impede China-Florida cooperation." The Chinese diplomat then followed up three days later, after Waltz's Taiwan visit, with a milder message recapitulating Beijing's view.

Such heavy-handed tactics, however, are only going to encourage those the embassy is trying to intimidate. "The Chinese Communist Party does not get to dictate where members of the U.S. Congress can visit," Waltz told NR in a statement slamming Chinese efforts to intimidate Taiwan. Waltz vowed to "ensure that the United States supports their freedom."

The aggressive nature of these tactics, given the current political environment, is puzzling, Michael Sobolik, a former Senate foreign-policy staffer who is now a fellow at the American Foreign Policy Council, told NR. "Why go through all of that trouble to shout at somebody?" He said that such a dressing-down from Chinese officials is "a badge of honor" on Capitol Hill.

The diplomatic approach of China's U.S. ambassador, Qin Gang, may shed some light on these incidents.

Qin, who arrived in Washington last summer, quickly established himself as a savvy diplomat with hard-edged Wolf Warrior instincts. During a virtual meeting with the National Committee on U.S.–China Relations, a nonprofit that urges cooperation between the countries, in September of last year, Qin expressed the view that the Biden administration should "please shut up" about differences between the U.S. and China, NR reported at the time. That shocked the organization's members, who are generally seen as friendly toward the Chinese leadership.

Amid Beijing's furor over Pelosi's Taiwan trip, Qin simultaneously relayed China's hard-line approach on the matter, warning in interviews that the U.S. was provoking a war, while maintaining a cordial working relationship with the Washington press corps. He held salon discussions with journalists and launched a media blitz to get his message across to skeptical audiences.

The ambassador might be headed back to Beijing soon, though, to become China's foreign minister, the Wall Street Journal reported last month.

"Is it just a shouting match, or do they have a [political] threat to deliver?" Sobolik asked of the Chinese embassy's pugilistic turn. "If it's the second, it says a lot about Qin. If he is going to be the next foreign minister, we're getting a preview of that right now."

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Chinese Diplomat Cornered and Berated Congressional Aide at Other Embassies' Events

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