In a game of diplomatic tit-for-tat, the Chinese government disinvited and reinvited the USS Kitty Hawk’s CBG from its Hong Kong port of call for Thanksgiving.
The USS Kitty Hawk group and its 8,000 airmen and sailors were expected in Hong Kong on Wednesday, but the U.S. State Department said the visit had been refused by China.
Hundreds of relatives of U.S. crew members had flown to Hong Kong to celebrate Thanksgiving on Thursday. Later in the day, China appeared to have relented, announcing the carrier would be allowed to stop by the former British colony after all.
“We have decided to allow the Kitty Hawk to stay in Hong Kong during Thanksgiving,” Foreign Ministry spokesman Liu Jianchao told a news conference. “It is a decision based on humanitarian considerations only.”
But a spokesman for the U.S. Pacific Fleet in Hawaii told Reuters the ships were not heading back to Hong Kong and were on course towards the Kitty Hawk’s base in Japan.
While I suppose China thinks it’s making a point by snubbing the US after President Bush met with the Dalai Lama, the benefits of such a move in international diplomacy may be outweighed by the end effect on the US domestic audience.
I’ve no doubt that stories like this — which will be interpreted by Americans simply as China being petty — will add to fuel to the anti-China fire back in the US. And whereas it simply used to be politicians on the right who about the threats we faced from “Communist China,” 2008, thanks to economic tensions, tainted goods, and environmental issues, looks to be a broad, bipartisan, anti-China election. Add to this the fact that US consumers, during the next four weeks, will be choosing whether or not to buy “Made in China” goods, and one cannot but feel that China picked a bad time to thumb its nose.