My takeaway from the outrage coming out of the Holy See around China’s appointment of two new bishops is simple: welcome to the table, gentlemen.
A common Chinese negotiating tactic when complex discussions reach an intense stage is some form of demonstration of how little they need you (whether that’s true or not). China clearly intends this as an attempt to demonstrate to the Vatican who has the power in this arrangement.
The reflexive reaction on the part of many western negotiators would be anger. “Bad faith,” we would call this, a demonstration that the other side isn’t really serious.
In reality, it’s something quite different, possibly an effort to hide a weak position. The challenge for the Vatican – and anyone in this position – is to step back, re-assess what the move is saying about the Chinese negotiating position, and then to consider your alternatives.
Which I hope they do – all indicators suggest that not only has progress been made, but that both parties have already planned what some of the next steps are.