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Treasury Sec. Yellen literally bows to CCP counterpart, describes official China trip as 'successful'
Photo by PEDRO PARDO/POOL/AFP via Getty Images

Treasury Sec. Yellen literally bows to CCP counterpart, describes official China trip as 'successful'

Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen described her official trip to China as "successful" Sunday on CBS News' "Face the Nation" while a viral video of her repeatedly bowing to her CCP counterpart in Beijing raised eyebrows back home.

"Never, ever, ever…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," Bradley Blakeman, former senior staffer in George W. Bush's White House, told the New York Post of the unseemly protocol flub.

"WATCH: Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen — in an embarrassing 'diplomatic faux pas' — repeatedly bows to Chinese Vice Premier He Lifeng in Beijing," @RNCResearch tweeted.

In the video, Sec. Yellen's counterpart, Chinese Vice Premier He Lifeng, approaches her, with his hand extended as if to shake hands.

Yellen returns the gesture by extending her own hand. The pair lightly grasp hands and shake, and then the situation grew awkward. As she shook He's hand, she bowed, not once, but three times. Cameras flash as a woman wearing a mask, carrying two bags, moves in from behind Yellen, possibly in an effort to guide her. Meanwhile, He stands tall and takes a step back, maintaining the handshake all the while.

In an interview with Yellen before she left Beijing, "Face the Nation" host Margaret Brennan aired the clip, but referred to it only obliquely. Brennan framed it as "one of those awkward moments," likening it to He's mention of concerns about Chinese spy balloons.

"I had a very constructive visit. I received a warm welcome and ... had substantive conversations about the global economy, developments in our own economies, financial markets, and a list of concerns that each of us brought to the table that we agreed to follow up on over time," Yellen told Brennan.

Yellen said she made it clear during the meetings that the U.S. could not compromise on national security issues "even if it harms our own narrow economic interests." She added that when the U.S. takes actions that would affect China's economy, the U.S. would ensure our actions were "transparent, narrowly targeted, and well-explained."

Asked if Beijing was taking a warning shot by restricting exports on critical minerals essential for computer chips, Yellen said she had "expressed concern" about China's action, describing it as "potentially" retaliatory.

"My purpose is to ensure we don't engage in a series of unintended escalatory actions that would be harmful to our overall economic relationship."

She said that senior officials as well as citizens from both countries had had "very little contact" with one another in the past several years, due in part to COVID, and that the lack of contact can lead to misunderstandings.

"I do think my trip has been successful in forging those relationships and creating the opportunity for a deeper set of more contacts at our staff levels."

"It is my hope that there is a path to bring inflation down ... the data I've seen suggests we are on that path," Yellen said, as the conversation with Brennan moved to the economy back home.

Yellen's apparent optimism about Bidenomics stopped short when Brennan asked her directly about the risk of recession given the recent slowdown in job numbers.

Recession is "not completely off the table," Sec. Yellen said, also adding her expectation that we would see a slower pace of ongoing job gains in the future.

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