‘Stalemate’ in ties as U.S., China officials trade barbs

Neither side appeared willing to concede ground in talks.

Talks between senior American and Chinese officials in the city of Tianjin on July 26 underlined a “stalemate” in relations, officials said, as both sides traded barbs and demands with little prospect of either appearing willing to concede any ground.

Chinese officials for the first time presented “two lists” of demands to visiting U.S. Deputy Secretary of State Wendy Sherman, while the U.S. side repeated its concerns over Xinjiang, Hong Kong and other Chinese actions — concerns that Beijing has rebuffed as “interference” in its internal affairs.

China’s Vice Foreign Minister Xie Feng slammed U.S. calls for a “rules-based international order” — calls also voiced by the U.S., India, Australia, Japan Quad grouping — describing it as “an effort by the United States and a few other Western countries to frame their own rules as international rules and impose them on other countries”. “The purpose is to resort to the tactic of changing the rules to make life easy for itself and hard for others, and to introduce ‘the law of the jungle’ where might is right and the big bully the small,” the Chinese Foreign Ministry quoted him as saying.

China put forward “two lists” during the talks, called the “List of U.S. Wrongdoings that Must Stop” and the “List of Key Individual Cases that China Has Concerns With”, the South China Morning Post reported. In the first, Beijing demanded Washington “unconditionally revoke the visa restrictions over Communist Party of China (CPC) members and their families, revoke sanctions on Chinese leaders, officials and government agencies, and remove visa restrictions on Chinese students”. Beijing has also asked the U.S. to revoke the extradition request for Chinese tech giant Huawei’s chief financial officer Meng Wangzhou, also the daughter of Huawei founder Ren Zhengfei, who has been under house arrest in Canada pending extradition.

Downturn in relations

While the Chinese side entirely blamed the U.S. for the downturn in relations, with Mr. Xie accusing the U.S. of “treating China as an imagined enemy,” Ms. Sherman underlined U.S. concerns “about a range of PRC actions that run counter to our values and interests and those of our allies and partners, and that undermine the international rules-based order,” State Department spokesperson Ned Price said in a statement.

“In particular, she raised our concerns about human rights, including Beijing’s anti-democratic crackdown in Hong Kong; the ongoing genocide and crimes against humanity in Xinjiang; abuses in Tibet; and the curtailing of media access and freedom of the press,” he said. “She also spoke about our concerns about Beijing’s conduct in cyberspace; across the Taiwan Strait; and in the East and South China Seas.” The Deputy Secretary also raised concerns “about the PRC’s unwillingness to cooperate with the World Health Organization and allow a second phase investigation in the PRC into COVID-19’s origins”.

She also “affirmed the importance of cooperation in areas of global interest, such as the climate crisis, counternarcotics, non-proliferation, and regional concerns including DPRK, Iran, Afghanistan, and Burma,” the State Department said.

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