Beijing urged Washington to stop “demonizing” China on Monday as resentment marked the start of talks with the higher-level visiting US envoy under President Joe Biden’s administration.
Deputy Secretary of State Wendy Sherman’s visit to the northern city of Tianjin is the first major meeting between the world’s major economies since the March talks in Anchorage between top diplomats from the countries that are collapsed into a buzz.
Sherman’s journey aims to seek “safeguards” as ties continue to deteriorate on a range of issues ranging from cybersecurity and technological supremacy to human rights in Hong Kong and Xinjiang.
“The hope is maybe that by demonizing China, the United States could somehow … blame China for its own structural problems,” Chinese Vice Foreign Minister Xie Feng told Sherman in a reading released by China’s Foreign Ministry early Monday.
“We urge the United States to change its highly mistaken mindset and dangerous policy,” Xie said in the statement, adding that Washington views China as an “imaginary enemy”.
Xie also described the relationship as being at a “dead end” and facing “serious difficulties”.
He said the Chinese viewed the “accusatory rhetoric of the United States as a thinly veiled attempt to contain and suppress China,” in comments recalling the heated exchange between Washington and top Beijing diplomats Antony Blinken and Yang Jiechi in Alaska.
Sherman will also meet with Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi.
She tweeted on Sunday that she had spoken with US companies about “the challenges they face in China,” and also sent her “heartfelt condolences” to the victims of the floods in Henan province.
The United States said last week that it hoped to use the “frank” talks as an opportunity to show Beijing “what responsible and healthy competition looks like,” but wanted to prevent the relationship from escalating into conflict.
The July 25-26 trip is stripped of the trappings of a full-fledged official visit. Sherman will not be traveling to Beijing, but will instead spend two days starting Sunday in Tianjin, a northeastern port city.
The visit is widely seen as a preparatory step for a possible meeting between Biden and Chinese President Xi Jinping, as US-China relations continue to tumble with little sign of improvement.
– Rocky start –
A day before Sherman’s landing in China, Foreign Minister Wang Yi vowed to “teach the United States a lesson” by treating other countries on an equal footing, foreshadowing a difficult start to the talks.
“China will not accept the self-proclaimed superiority of any country,” he said in a statement from the Foreign Ministry on Saturday.
John Kerry, the former secretary of state turned US climate envoy, is the only other senior official in the Biden administration to have visited China.
The two sides pledged to cooperate on climate change, despite their many differences.
Biden largely maintained the hawkish stance on China of his predecessor Donald Trump as Washington sought to build a united front of Democratic allies against Beijing.
Last week, China and the United States exchanged sanctions against Beijing’s crackdown on freedoms in Hong Kong, in the latest round of an ongoing saga that has targeted individuals including the former US Secretary of Commerce. Wilbur Ross.
Last week, Washington issued a warning to companies operating in Hong Kong about the city’s deteriorating autonomy.
The United States has also rallied allies, including NATO, in a rare joint condemnation last week of alleged large-scale cyber attacks from China.
© 2021 AFP