Last week US President Joe Biden singled out a “growing rivalry with China” as a key challenge facing the United States, with his top diplomat describing the Asian country as “the biggest geopolitical test” of this century.
Speaking at his annual news conference, the Chinese government’s top diplomat, State Councillor Wang Yi, struck a tough line even as he outlined where the world’s two biggest economies could work together.
Questioned about recent US-China frictions over Taiwan, Xinjiang and the disputed South China Sea, Wang said Beijing “will never accept baseless accusations and smears”.
The United States had used democracy and human rights as a basis for arbitrarily interfering with other countries’ affairs, he said. “The US should realise this as soon as possible, otherwise the world will continue to experience instability.”
Wang added that differences between China and the United States must be managed carefully, the two sides must advocate healthy competition not zero-sum finger-pointing, and that areas like climate change and fighting the pandemic were where they could cooperate.
“It is hoped that the United States and China will meet each other halfway and lift the various unreasonable restrictions placed on Sino-US cooperation to date as soon as possible, and not create new obstacles artificially.”
The United States and China are at odds over influence in the Indo-Pacific region, Beijing’s economic practices, Hong Kong, Taiwan and human rights in China’s Xinjiang region.
The Biden administration has indicated it will broadly continue the tough approach to China taken by former President Donald Trump, but do so in coordination with allies.
Wang warned that on Chinese-claimed Taiwan there was no room for compromise, urging the new US government to change the previous administration’s “dangerous acts of playing with fire”.
Biden’s team says the US commitment to democratic Taiwan is “rock solid”.
During Trump’s administration, the United States levied a series of sanctions against China and its officials over Xinjiang, Hong Kong and Beijing’s economic policies, which have not been lifted under the new administration.
Secretary of State Antony Blinken has said he agrees with his predecessor Mike Pompeo’s determination that genocide against Muslims is underway in Xinjiang.
Activists and UN experts say 1 million Muslim Uighurs are held in Chinese camps. China denies abuses and says its camps provide vocational training and are needed to fight extremism.
Wang addressed accusations over human rights abuses in Xinjiang, saying some Western politicians chose to believe lies about the region, and took a dig at Western countries’ record.
“When it comes to ‘genocide’, most people think of North American Indians in the 16th century, African slaves in the 19th century, Jews in the 20th century, and the Australian aborigines who are still fighting today,” he said.
“The so-called ‘genocide’ in Xinjiang is ridiculously absurd. It is a rumour with ulterior motives and a complete lie.”