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‘They Wasted Away Four Years of My Life’
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‘They Wasted Away Four Years of My Life’

Scholar Wang Xiyue talks about spending 40 months in an Iranian prison and what he learned about the regime.

Wang Xiyue is a Jeane Kirkpatrick fellow at the American Enterprise Institute in Washington and a Ph.D. candidate at Princeton University. An American citizen, he went to Iran in 2016 for historical research at the height of the Obama-era U.S.-Iran rapprochement. After some months there, he was detained, then arrested, charged, and finally sentenced to 10 years imprisonment for spying by Iran’s Revolutionary Court. He was freed in a prisoner swap in 2019. He spoke to Danielle Pletka on February 24, 2021. 

Danielle Pletka: Tell me a little bit about your background and how you ended up in Iran.

Wang Xiyue: I was a Ph.D. candidate doing dissertation research in Iran, so my research topic was really comparative governance studies between Iran, later Qajar/early Pahlavi Iran, and then late-imperial Russia and early-Soviet period on frontier Turkmen nomads. I was curious because the nomads cross the border, and it’s a really interesting case study to see how Russia and Iran managed the same group of nomads who used to go back and forth between the two countries during this period of time.

DP: That’s a pretty recondite, recherché subject. How did you end up on this nomadic tribe on the Russian-Iranian border?

Wang: I was looking for a project. I had a hard time getting into the Iranian National Archive, so I could only go to the Iranian foreign ministry archive. The foreign ministry archive maintains a good record from frontier regions, because that’s where they deal with their neighbors.

I was then looking at things on the Afghan border, on the Russian border, and I realized that the Turkmen issue was actually very interesting. And I was looking for a cross-border governance project with Russia, and the Turkmen area was kind of perfect for that purpose because it was the last piece of land unclaimed in the late 19th century in Eurasia. Iran tried to conquer the Turkmen territory many times, but they failed. And then Russia eventually conquered in 1883 what is today Turkmenistan. So that period of history and that area fascinates me. Very little work has been done, partially because of the difficulties of getting into Iran and Turkmenistan. After the JCPOA, things looked positive. My academic adviser suggested I go to Iran to do this research [after I received a visa].

DP: That’s fantastic. This is what month?

Wang: It was January 2016.

Pletka: I would say these are the best days of the JCPOA, while Obama is still president and before there are questions raised about the deal. This is after they got the money, right? (Note: The Obama administration transferred $1.7 billion in non-U.S. currency notes to Iran in January 2016.) 

Wang: Mid-January Iran released the hostages, so it looked even better. We didn’t know the true extent of the payment until August. It wasn’t really disclosed fully. We thought it was $400 million, but it turned out to be a full $1.7 billion

Pletka: Right. But they should’ve been very happy. So, you arrive in Iran and what happens?

Wang: In the beginning, there were no problems. I was spending a lot of time in language school and then was looking for academic contacts and getting to know Iranian scholars, visiting archives and libraries for access, to get logistics done in the first six weeks. And then it was Iranian new year. Everything was closed down, so I returned home for a month and a half, and then I went again May 1. When I went again in May, I started intensive archival work. I was very anxious professionally, because I didn’t know what kind of material I would find. But it was a very hopeful period because I did find good material. Trouble started to show up a few days before I was supposed to leave Iran.

Pletka: When was that? What date was that around?

Wang: I believe mid-July 2016, because I was working with a local scholar who was trying to get some documents for me. The documents are all accessible for Iranians, nothing was confidential. It’s just that the national archive never officially said yes or no to my request. So, I asked my Iranian academic contact what I should do, and he suggested, “These materials are available to Iranians, so why don’t I just get these things for you?”

Pletka: And that was a historical document? It wasn’t anything modern.

Wang: Right. It’s a Qajar-Iranian historical document. He got half of them for me, and when he went to get the second half, the archive told him that he was getting documents for a foreigner, and they weren’t going to give him the documents. The archive knew that we submitted the same list.

That’s when I felt a bit troubled. A few hours before I was supposed to leave the country, I was called by the intelligence. They claimed to be Iranian police, wanted to ask me questions, and asked me to bring my passport and computer with me. So, I went to the designated diplomatic police station with my passport and computer. There were two people: one interpreter and one interrogator. The first thing the interrogator did was take my passport. He flipped through it and asked me, “Are you Chinese?” Why is that important? That is usually not the first thing that police will ask you when they look at your passport. I think they knew that they were going to take me hostage. So, knowing that I wasn’t Chinese, because he saw my Chinese visa, he decided that I could be taken. (Note: Wang Xiyue was born in the People’s Republic of China, but moved to the United States with his family and became a U.S. citizen.)

Pletka: If you had been a Chinese national, do you think they would’ve done that?

Wang: No. In fact, they made it very clear. They said, “Had you been Chinese, this would not have happened” during interrogation.

Pletka: So, were you ever released after that first interrogation?

Wang: Yes. They took my passport and computer and let me go. They kept me in limbo for 18 days. I reported it to Princeton. I was really naïve. I didn’t understand the dynamic. Actually, to be really fair, many Iran experts have not talked about what I am trying to talk about. So, there is a deep level of misinformation. I would say disinformation, but disinformation might be too strong. I think there is a tendency not to describe Iran and its relation with the United States in certain factual ways.

Pletka: Why do you think that is? 

Wang: Well, you know, I think there are many reasons. For academics on our university campuses, they need access to sources in Iran. Like I can tell you the same people who strongly advised me to go, some Iranian-American scholars, their work is based on access to sources in Iran. Through what has happened to me … it should have become clear to them that the JCPOA could not work as Obama envisioned. But today, they are still proposing the very same line of policy advice that they gave in 2015 and 2016. I don’t think it’s a lack of understanding. There’s strong vested interest for their professional reasons.

Pletka: You see the same thing with China as well, with reporters in China who want to maintain their access, and are afraid, and are explicitly warned. That’s how authoritarian regimes act. So, 18 days, then you go back for your passport and what happens?

Wang: So, on August 4, I read Jay Solomon’s WSJ article on my smartphone about the true extent of the January 2016 exchange. (Note: The Solomon article broke the news that an airlift of cash from the U.S. to Iran coincided with a prisoner exchange between the two countries.) After reading that piece, I felt, “Oh shoot, they are going to arrest me, because clearly they want to take me for ransom.” I thought, “Okay, I will go to the Swiss embassy on Sunday for a consultation with this new information.” 

Pletka: Why did Jay Solomon’s article make you think you were going to get arrested? 

Wang: Jay Solomon exposed the full extent of the hostages-for-cash exchange.

Pletka: But shouldn’t that have made the Iranians happy, no? It was a ton of money.

Wang: No, because then, Donald Trump came out and said, “Obama has done wrong. Obama shouldn’t have done that, because it will encourage Iranians to arrest more Americans.” 

Pletka: They saw it as a ransom payment. 

Wang: Precisely. Iran saw it as a ransom payment, and they talk about it in the media in the open. 

Pletka: This is a window into how Washington sees this—a good-faith effort to assist the Iranian economy—versus how the transactional Iranians see it.

Wang: Yes, exactly. That is repeatedly talked about in Iranian media, that this is a ransom. It really doesn’t matter how Obama and his administration saw it. It was perceived by Iran as ransom, clearly. It is not even an inference. It’s their explicit statement. The moral of this is make America pay.

Pletka: Why not? They understand how markets work. So, you went to the Swiss embassy, our protecting power.

Wang: I probably went to the Swiss embassy four times. They advised me not to escalate. Because if I escalate, the Iranians will think I’m important and may take drastic actions. I didn’t know at that time Siamak Namazi’s passport was taken two months before he was arrested. (Note: Siamak Namazi was arrested by Iranian authorities in 2015. A dual U.S.-Iranian national, he was charged with spying. Months later, his aged father was lured back to Iran and arrested. Both remain in Evin prison.) And then the State Department, having received the information, kept silent. My wife told me, “You should stay in the Swiss embassy.” I asked the Swiss embassy if I could stay and they told me no. 

Pletka: In retrospect that was probably wrong. Although, we can understand why they might have thought that being more circumspect would’ve helped you. I think the decision was probably already made. So, you make the decision on Thursday to go to the Swiss embassy on Sunday, and what happens?

Wang: On Sunday, first thing in the morning, I got a call around 8:30, I remember, from the interpreter. He asked me to go to the Hotel Azadi. By the way, Azadi means “freedom,” it’s the direct opposite of prison. 

Pletka: Nice. Ironic.

Wang: Ironic, yes. So, they asked me to go to Hotel Azadi. I went, and I later learned the entire third floor was theirs for interrogation. They told me, “We have investigated you. We don’t think you’ve done anything wrong. We will release you and take you to the airport. And then, I told them, “Well, I want the Swiss to do that. Thank you.” They said “No. We have to take you. You can tell the Swiss to go to the airport and wait for you.” So, I called the Swiss and told them that the Iranians have told me that they are going to release me and asked if they could meet me at the airport to process travel arrangements. The Iranians then took me back to my apartment, asked me to take my luggage, and then instead of taking me to the airport, they took me to prison.

Pletka: So, you weren’t expecting that? 

Wang: No. When I came out to their car I sensed something was wrong, because the airport was in the south, but the prison was in the north. They were taking me up north, and I realized something was wrong. And then they took my cellphone from my hand, switched it off, and put it in their pocket. 

Pletka: Always a good sign. And so were you taken immediately to Evin? 

Wang: I was taken into an office in Evin, like an investigative court. And then, the investigative judge issued an arrest warrant, accusing me of espionage. I was taken directly to solitary confinement. 

Pletka: That’s terrible.

Wang: There was literally nothing but a sink inside. Then there were scribbles on the wall. I was reading things on the wall just to get myself distracted. You know the Iranians don’t use the Arabic numerals we use? They use their own system. But, somebody wrote on the wall, in English, “364 days.” 

A cell in Evin prison. (Photo by Kaveh Kazemi/Getty Images)

Pletka: In solitary? With no bed? Just a sink? So how long were you kept there?

Wang: I was kept in solitary for 18 days. They fed me, and then they interrogated me every evening for a couple of hours. The longest probably for 5 hours, maybe longer.

It wasn’t actually clear what they were doing. To me, they were still suspicious of me and investigating me, because they asked very specific, but mundane questions. Stuff like where I was born, where I was educated, where I grew up, what I studied in college, my work experience, my opinion about politics, my knowledge about Iranian history, this sort of stuff. For a long time, they didn’t ask me what I had done. Of course they asked me who I know, the Iranian people I’ve gotten to know, and where I’ve gone to in Iran, things I’ve done in Iran, but nothing was really incriminating. And then, for the most part, I had wishful thoughts: Maybe they are still seriously investigating, and once they find that I am innocent, they will let me go. But then it became clear what they were doing. On the 18th day, they told me “We have finished the investigation, we think you have done nothing.” This is the second time they have said that. “I have written a positive report about you to my chief. I will take you to my chief tomorrow night, and then he will talk to you. If you convince him that you are innocent, he may release you or let you go on bail.” On the second day, they took me to hotel Istiqlal, also in Northern Tehran, third floor. And an old man came. He told me “I’m sorry you have to go through this. Had you been Chinese, this wouldn’t have happened.” And then he said, “We are going to ask you some questions and film you. We are going to analyze your facial expressions, and if you are telling the truth we will release you.” And then they started filming and asked me the same questions that they had time and time again during interrogation. I soon realized that this is not about analyzing my facial expressions on me telling the truth or not. It’s for propaganda, because they were asking me opinion questions that couldn’t be judged by a true or false. 

Pletka: Like what?

Wang: “What do you think about U.S. policy towards the Middle East? What do you think about U.S. strategy towards Iran?” This kind of thing.

And then very late at night they took me back to Evin. And then on the third day, I was allowed to talk to my wife for the first time after 19 days. That was the first time I spoke to anyone outside.

Pletka: Wow. 

Wang: And then they left me alone for 10 days. Then they restarted interrogation. This time, they changed interrogators. They did not allow me to remove my blindfold this time. I never saw the second interrogator. This time there was no interpreter, it was completely done in Farsi. He basically forced me into a confession. He said, “You collected information illegally because you are not on a research visa, but you are doing research.”

Pletka: What kind of visa were you on?

Wang: I was on a student language visa. I also made the research intention very clear to the Iranian interests section in my letter of introduction. But, the intelligence told me, “No, you have done illegal things by collecting information without permission.” And then I said, “Well usually you would deport people doing that. Why don’t you deport me?” Of course, they then said “You have broken our law, and you are a spy. You have to confess that you are a spy. Otherwise, you will never set your foot on American soil or see your wife and son again. You will go back to solitary confinement until you confess. We have a lot of time.” I think they were kind of lazy, and they told me, “We want a deal with the United States. If you confess, hopefully a deal will happen soon. If you don’t, you will suffer for nothing. One day you will confess. We want our money back. We want our prisoners back. You have to be a spy for us to have a case.”

Pletka: I see. So you confessed.

Wang: And so I confessed. One sentence, “I’m a spy for the United States.” One sentence. No details whatsoever. And I felt really disgusted by myself because it’s a self-betrayal. 

Pletka: But there’s nothing you can do.

Wang: Right. There’s nothing I could do. There was no counsel from anybody, no one to give me advice. Although I was with other prisoners for a couple of days, I was already in that condition for almost a month. And that’s a very difficult condition. And they know certainly how to play mental games with you. 

Pletka: And so there you are, and when did they sentence you?

Wang: April or May 2017.

Pletka: So, they sentence you to how long?

Wang: 10 years.

Pletka: 10 years, for spying. Stunning.

Wang: I can tell you, the craziest thing they told me. They said “Your adviser, Stephen Kotkin, single-handedly brought down the Soviet Union.”

Pletka: Really?

Wang: Oh, yeah. Steve Kotkin wrote a book on the collapse of the Soviet Union. And he publishes regularly for Foreign Affairs. So, the judge, Judge Salavati, said, “Your adviser single-handedly brought down the Soviet Union, so he sent you, his student, to bring down our regime.”

Pletka: Sorry, I shouldn’t laugh. And Judge Salavati, he’s an IRGC judge?

Wang: No, he’s the most ferocious judge in the Iranian system. He’s the judge of the Revolutionary Court. And he hands out most of the death sentences. So, he only gives out maximum sentences, that’s what he does.

Pletka: He’s a hanging judge, we say in English.

Wang: Yes, a hanging judge. And then I said, “I am a foreigner. I don’t know anybody here, and I don’t even speak Farsi fluently. And I came with $12,000, how can I bring down your regime?” And he said, “You couldn’t. Because before you could, our Supreme Leader, who’s so wise, and the intelligence voices, who are so capable, they called you before you could do it.”

Pletka: You ended up spending 40 months in prison. What did you learn? First of all, are you taken out of solitary?

Wang: Yes. So, my interactions were with Iranian officials and the judge and those enforcers of state violence, and with other prisoners who were really from all walks of life. They were really just fundamentalists, they were embezzlers, and corrupt officials, and they were smugglers and intellectuals, scholars. But also a lot of former officials. Some of them were senior, like the political counselor to the Iranian embassy in China. Counselor to Iranian embassy in Venezuela. The ambassador to the Iranian embassy in Turkmenistan. And the consular official, Iranian consulate in Quetta, Pakistan. And then I was with money launderers. People who circumvented sanctions, who were involved in multibillion-euro cases. So, I was with all kinds of different people and I learned a lot from communicating with them.

Pletka: What would you say were your most important lessons that you learned?

Wang: The most important lesson is that the way that they deal with us, their attitude toward us, is not reactive. It’s proactive. We tend to think if we do things right, they will come around and have good relations with us. That’s wishful thinking and that’s totally wrong. We have tried that since the very early days of the revolution. And then people criticize Trump for closing the door for diplomacy. But there’s not a single day where Trump said, “I don’t want to talk to them.”

Pletka: Right, no, that’s true. He, I think most people believed, wanted a better Iran deal. A Trump Iran deal. Not an Obama Iran deal.

Wang: Right. But he always kept the door of diplomacy open. 

Pletka: Let me ask you about a story you told me. At a certain point you said to one of your interrogators that you believed that President Obama should visit Iran and that the United States should have a normal relationship with Iran. And what did he respond to you?

Wang: He said, “No way, we don’t want Americans.” He said, “American president is not welcomed in our country. We will never have American president to visit us. Never, ever.”

And that was used as evidence against me in court.

Pletka: Why was that evidence against you?

Wang: Because they said, “You want American president to visit Iran. So, you want regime change.” You see, this is how they perceive any goodwill gesture from the United States. It doesn’t really matter how much we give them, how much we are willing to compromise and reconcile with them, they will not see it positively. And then they will do everything against that.

Pletka: And so how did you get out?

Wang: That was 40 months later, that was really a surprise. I knew when Mohammed Javad Zarif and Hassan Rouhani came to the U.N. General Assembly in September they talked about exchange, prisoner exchange. And then they started a propaganda campaign about Dr. [Massoud] Soleimani, the scientist eventually exchanged for me. In Iran for like over a month, he’s on TV all the time. So I sense something positive may come out of it, but I wasn’t really sure.

Pletka: And how did you know about that? Did you have access to Iranian news?

Wang: Yeah, we had newspapers and we had a TV in prison.

Pletka: Interesting, okay.

Wang: Yes. And then of course many people were making efforts, the true extent to that was not known to me because the administration would not share information. The day when it happened, it was very strange. Prisoners knew who’s getting out, who’s being released, who’s going to furlough. And around that time, nobody was slated to go. And then I was having my French lesson with a francophone prisoner, we were talking about a novel I was reading, a French novel. And then they started playing this tune in a loudspeaker. When they play it once, it means somebody goes to furlough, when they play it twice it means somebody’s going to be released. So they played it twice and then somebody started reading a poem about God’s will or something like that. And I was asking the teacher, “Who’s going to be released?” And he said, “No one. We don’t know.” And then they read my name. He said, “Mr. Wang, you are released. You are released.” And then that was a shock to me. I totally didn’t expect that it would happen that way. And then they took me out of the general prison, and the warden told me, “As far as we’re concerned, you are released. But we cannot release you onto the street. We have to release you to the intelligence.” So they took me back to the intelligence, high security prison, a special ward inside Evin.

Pletka: Okay.

Wang: It was the first prison, where I stayed for nine and a half months. So, I was taken to a small cell identical to the one that I spent a long time in. I totally freaked out. I just couldn’t stop talking to other prisoners in the cell. I wasn’t allowed to call. I was uncertain whether they were playing a game, what’s going on. And then on Saturday morning, around 4:30, before the morning adhan, they took me out and then they said, “Do you know what will happen to you?” And I said, “No.” They said, “We’re taking you to the airport. You’re going home.”

Pletka: Wow.

Wang: Yeah. And in the airport, I saw the Swiss ambassador and some lady who introduced herself as the Swiss deputy foreign minister or something. And then we took a picture and she said, “We don’t have time, let’s go.” And then she grabbed my wrist and dragged me to the exit of the VIP lounge. And we saw this Swiss aircraft parked on the tarmac. But the gate of the lounge was locked. And then she asked the Iranians, “Where’s the key? Why is it locked?” And the Iranians said, “We don’t know where the key is.” Then the Swiss ambassador explained to her it was agreed that the American plane containing Soleimani and the Swiss plane containing me would arrive in Zurich at the same time. And [former Iran envoy] Brian Hook said, “If the Iranians don’t let you go, we will call the plane back and we’ll cancel the deal.” And that was very scary. So she actually told the Iranians, “If you don’t open the door right now, the Americans are going to cancel the deal.” And then, all of a sudden, they got the key and they let us go.

Pletka: I’ve never asked you this, and don’t tell me something you don’t want to share, but were you mistreated in prison? I worry people are going to think, “Oh, well, of course it’s bad to be in prison, but not too bad. It’s not like Guantanamo Bay or anything.” Were you treated decently in prison? You had French lessons with a French speaking prisoner. You learned Farsi from your colleagues. What would you say about that?

Wang: Well, you know, when I told my friends when I came back about my day-to-day life in prison, their first reaction is, “Wow, the Iranians are so humane.” And I think that’s the most offensive thing that they can say. I said, “There’s nothing humane about their behavior. If they’re really humane, they wouldn’t do this to me. They wasted away four years of my life. Caused immense personal suffering and suffering of my family. For their gain. And there’s nothing humane in that. But I do say that I could have been treated much worse, that is true. But, imagine a situation where Iranian prisoners mostly spend a month or two in the high security prison. I spent nine and a half months, mostly in a cell without a window. I could see sunlight twice a week for 20 minutes each. I had telephone calls for 10 minutes a week when I was in the high security prison. And I was under constant psychological pressure. Because I didn’t know what would happen to me. In the first 18 days of solitary confinement, I lost nine kilos. And that was really difficult because I couldn’t sleep, the floor was so hard. And then 24/7, the light was on. They used something called “white torture” for the most part. 

Pletka: What does that mean?

Wang: White torture means no physical torture, but psychological torture. There are many ways to do that. And I later on read Solzhenitsyn in prison. You read the first three chapters, it corresponds exactly to what the Iranians are doing to us.

Pletka: Let’s talk a little about what you’ve learned and how you see current policy through the prism of your experience.

Wang: I think first of all the Iranian hostility against the United States has its own roots. And secondly, the regime is a very vicious, opportunistic, and suspicious regime that views its relations with the outside world as zero sum. So, if you don’t advance, they think you are weak. That’s why, I say, you can’t really engage it through goodwill. It will abuse your goodwill to the max it can. And they are doing that very thing right now. I tweeted yesterday, what do you gain by making all these concessions to Iran? Nothing, but so far, more hostages have been taken, Iran has restricted IAEA access for inspection, and they hijacked the Korean ship and all that. There’s nothing they have given us in return. And they’re going to keep doing that. 

Pletka: So you feel like you were naïve. I look at these people who are accomplished, serious: Tony Blinken, Jake Sullivan. These are not babies. They’re not academics, these are people with experience in the world. Do you have a sense of why it is that in your view they are misinterpreting Iranian signals and intentions?

Wang: [Rep.] Ro Khanna wrote something very interesting. So he said, “Iran is a 0.44 percent of global GDP. US, 25 percent. China, 19 percent. Why are we wasting our time on 0.44 percent? And getting bogged down in the Middle East with Iran? We need to get out and focus on China.” And I told him, “Sorry, it doesn’t work that way. It costs you a million to build a nice house. But it doesn’t cost an arsonist so much to burn it down.” [Note: Xiyue Wang and Rep. Khanna have been debating the Iran issue on Twitter.]

Pletka: Well said.

Wang: And I think this reflects somehow their way of thinking: They believe we have to somehow set aside Iran conundrum. We cannot solve it. Let’s manage it. Set it aside. Focus on more important issues, be it China, Asia, or domestic issues of COVID or other things. But they don’t really understand the Iranian regime, or they’d prefer not to understand it. Because it is a time- and resource-consuming topic. When I was a school boy, it was Desert Storm. Iraq was shooting scud missiles to Kuwait and Israel, and America would launch missiles to intercept the scud missile. And I remember clearly in the Chinese news, they talked about missiles, and said the scud missile is a low technology missile and it doesn’t cost that much. The Patriot missile is much more expensive. I asked my father, “Why do they intercept the scud missile with a Patriot that is much more expensive?” And the answer was simple: You need to prevent the scud missile from causing much greater damage. And I think that’s the question we don’t want to really think carefully about.

Pletka: Iran is the scud missile. 

Wang: Iran is the scud missile. It’s not like you give them a deal and they will abide by the deal and keep quiet. Iran has an offensive defense strategy. And the only way to deal with that is to counter its malicious behavior. You constrain it. And you contain it. You cannot do it by persuasion, appeasement. 

Pletka: This is one of those lessons that unfortunately is very hard for some people to learn. And you learned it the most personally, very painful way. But I suspect that there are others who for political reasons and ideological reasons don’t wish to learn it.

Wang: Exactly, that’s the problem … We certainly don’t think Tony Blinken or Jake Sullivan are naïve, or they don’t understand. What I do fear though, is that they do understand, but they are cynical in the way that they don’t want to seriously deal with it. So, they want to set aside the problem so it’ll be a problem for others.

Pletka: Kick the can down the road.

Wang: I think that’s a dangerous idea to do that. In my Foreign Policy piece, I propose a way that the United States should deal with Iran in relation to China. You keep pressure on Iran because once you start showing an intention to take that pressure away, you will see China getting closer to Iran. It is already proven that China’s illicit purchases of Iranian oil skyrocketed since the election. Because they sense that Biden is going to open up with Iran, reengage with Iran, so there’s nothing to lose. And then the people who argued beforehand, “Trump has failed. We have pushed Iran and China closer, we need to undo that.” And that’s wrong because once you start reengaging, you will see that process unfolding exactly, like a self-fulfilling prophecy. So, I want to suggest, it’s impossible for the US to stop working with China in some regards. You need to constrict the Chinese influence but you don’t want head-on conflict with Chinese influence. You want to kind of work with it, coordinate policy when you can and then limit its influence. So, for example, you can allow China to buy more Iranian oil. But in return, you will tell China not to support Iran any further.

Pletka: We’re going to have an opportunity to see how strong-minded, how tough this administration is in the coming months. And I look forward to watching it with you and understanding better through your experience how they can do better. Wang Xiyue, thank you so much for taking the time to talk to me.

Wang: We have warned about this, and I think it’s important to keep my voice loud, for better future policy.

Danielle Pletka's Headshot

Danielle Pletka

Danielle Pletka is a senior fellow at the American Enterprise Institute.