Chinese Officials Blame U.S. for Stalemate in High-Level Talks
Senior U.S. and Chinese officials sparred over Covid-19, human rights and cybersecurity during a tense exchange Monday in the highest-level meetings between the two countries on Chinese soil since Joe Biden became president.
Chinese Vice Foreign Minister Xie Feng, meeting with U.S. Deputy Secretary of State Wendy Sherman in the port city of Tianjin on Monday, said American perceptions of China as an “imagined enemy” were responsible for a stalemate in relations between the two powers.
Ms. Sherman, who arrived in Tianjin on Sunday and also met with Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi, laid out the reasoning behind recent tough White House action on China, according to U.S. administration officials. The purpose of the visit was to provide “guardrails” for the U.S.-China relationship to ensure it doesn’t spill over into conflict, they said.
The two sides discussed “ways to set terms for responsible management of the U.S.-China relationship,” State Department spokesman Ned Price said in a statement.
Mr. Xie accused the U.S. of pushing an international order designed to benefit itself while holding back other countries, as if the U.S. introduced a “law of the jungle” where “might is right and the big bully the small,” according to a summary of his speech provided by China’s Foreign Ministry.
The testy exchange came as the two countries prepared to exchange new envoys. China’s new ambassador to the U.S., Qin Gang, is planning to leave Beijing for Washington, D.C., in the coming days, according to people familiar with the situation. Beijing is also expecting to welcome veteran diplomat Nicholas Burns to China as the U.S. ambassador to the country soon, the people said.
Mr. Biden has continued many of former President Donald Trump’s confrontational policies on China in areas ranging from technology to trade while also trying to unify allies to push back against Beijing, which is something Mr. Trump didn’t do.
At the same time, the Biden administration has sought China’s cooperation on issues of global concern such as climate change and nuclear nonproliferation.
“There are some things that rise above specific differences that are the global responsibility of great powers,” Ms. Sherman told the Associated Press in an interview after the meeting in Tianjin concluded.
The relationship between Beijing and the Biden administration got off to a fiery start when senior U.S. and Chinese foreign policy officials first met in Anchorage, Alaska in March, with State Councilor Yang Jiechi saying the U.S. had no right to lecture China.
Monday’s meeting was in many ways a repeat of that first encounter, with Mr. Xie saying U.S. talk of cooperation masks its ultimate aim, which is to contain and suppress China.
Chinese officials presented Ms. Sherman with lists of steps they said the U.S. needed to take to improve relations, China’s Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian said in a regular press briefing on Monday. They included canceling restrictions imposed on Chinese Communist members and their family, lifting visa restrictions on Chinese students and stopping policies that China says are aimed at cracking down on Chinese enterprises.
Beijing also demanded that the U.S. address recent violence toward Chinese people and Asians in the U.S. that the Chinese Foreign Ministry described as being aimed at Chinese citizens.
Mr. Zhao added that Beijing called upon the U.S. to stop infringing on its red lines on Taiwan, Hong Kong, and the northwestern region of Xinjiang and other issues that China regards as its own affairs, as well as to halt what it described as the U.S.’s erroneous efforts to pursue the origin of Covid-19.
Meanwhile, Ms. Sherman raised Beijing’s crackdown in Hong Kong and human rights abuses in Xinjiang and Tibet, as well as Beijing’s provocative actions in the Taiwan Strait and malicious activities in cyberspace, according to U.S. officials. She also raised Beijing’s dismissal of the World Health Organization’s proposal to continue investigating the origins of Covid-19 in China and the Chinese government’s curtailing media access and freedom of the press.
Under Mr. Biden, the U.S. has joined with allies in imposing sanctions on Chinese officials in response to a campaign of forced assimilation aimed at Turkic Muslim Uyghurs and other minorities in Xinjiang, and in attributing a damaging cyberattack on Microsoft Exchange Servers to Chinese state-backed hackers. Both actions have sparked angry responses from Beijing.
In his meeting with Ms. Sherman on Monday, Mr. Xie highlighted the U.S.’s genocide against Native Americans, hundreds of thousands of U.S. deaths from Covid-19 and military action around the world, according to the Chinese Foreign Ministry summary.
“How can the United States portray itself as the world’s spokesperson for democracy and human rights?” he said.
Chinese Foreign Ministry officials earlier discussed trying to arrange a meeting between Mr. Biden and Chinese leader Xi Jinping at the Group of 20 summit scheduled to take place in Rome in October as a way to soothe tensions. U.S. officials said such a meeting wasn’t discussed Monday.
A high-level meeting on economics and trade would likely need to be arranged before the two sides could plan an encounter between the leaders, said Wu Xinbo, director of Fudan University’s Center for American Studies in Shanghai.