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Beijing urges Washington to stop ‘demonisation’

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BEIJING: Rancour marked the start of Monday’s talks between Beijing and the highest-level US envoy to visit under President Joe Biden’s administration, as Beijing urged Washington to stop “demonising” China while the US made a “forceful” case against China’s human rights violations.

Deputy Secretary of State Wendy Sherman’s visit to the northern city of Tianjin is the first major meeting between the world’s leading economies since March discussions in Anchorage between the countries’ top diplomats collapsed into mudslinging.

The preamble to Sherman’s trip said she aimed to seek “guardrails” as ties deteriorate on a range of issues from cybersecurity and tech supremacy to human rights in Hong Kong and Xinjiang. But the tone was set early in the day in statements published by Beijing.

“The hope may be that by demonising China, the US could somehow… blame China for its own structural problems,” Chinese Vice Foreign Minister Xie Feng told Sherman, in a readout issued by China’s foreign ministry early on Monday.

“We urge the United States to change its highly misguided mindset and dangerous policy,” the statement quoted Xie as saying, adding that Washington views China as an “imagined enemy”.

He claimed that Chinese people view the United States’ “adversarial rhetoric as a thinly veiled attempt to contain and suppress China”, in comments reminiscent of the fiery exchange between Washington and Beijing’s top diplomats Antony Blinken and Yang Jiechi in Alaska in March.

Sherman tweeted on Monday that she “spoke about the United States’ commitment to healthy competition, protecting human rights and democratic values” with Foreign Minister Wang Yi.

The US State Department said Sherman had raised various concerns about China’s violations of human rights in Hong Kong, Xinjiang and Tibet.

“The Deputy Secretary and State Councilor Wang had a frank and open discussion about a range of issues, demonstrating the importance of maintaining open lines of communication between our two countries,” the State Department said in a readout.

“They discussed ways to set terms for responsible management of the US-China relationship.” Unlike Xie’s characterisation of the talks, US officials told reporters Monday that the “candid” discussion was “professional” and “direct”, despite no specific outcomes achieved.

“The Deputy Secretary was very forceful in making the Chinese understand the factual information we had to support what we were talking about,” US officials said, adding that Sherman had been “brutally honest” at times on issues such as China’s alleged cyberhacking.

“We’re looking for constructive ways to move forward on some of these issues… I don’t think we were expecting any major breakthroughs.” The US side also raised media freedoms, as well as China’s military actions in the Taiwan Strait and its claims in the South China Sea, according to the readout.

Published in Dawn, July 27th, 2021


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