Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi called on the U.S. to lift restrictions on trade and people-to-people contacts in his opening remarks at the Lanting Forum on bringing China-U.S. relations back to the right track, at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs office in Beijing on February 22, 2021. Simultaneously he urged the active ceasing of what Beijing considers undeserved interference in the areas of Taiwan, Hong Kong, Xinjiang and Tibet.
The new American president Joe Biden had pledged re-engagement and a more civil tone in U.S. diplomatic relationships. Though it not clear if he would actually make changes in Washington’s current policies toward Beijing. Mr. Wang’s comments at the forum on U.S.-China relations come in a time when Beijing is pressing the administration of President Joe Biden to reverse many of the confrontational measures adopted by his predecessor Donald Trump.
Mr. Trump had upgraded military and diplomatic ties with Taiwan which is the self-governing island democracy claimed by China as its own territory. He had also sanctioned Chinese officials blamed for abuses against Muslim minorities in Xinjiang and the crackdown on democratic freedom in Hong Kong. He had hiked tariffs on Chinese imports in 2017 and impose bans or strict restrictions on Chinese tech companies, their products and also academic exchange.
Mr. Wang addressed the diplomats, scholars and journalists at the Lanting Forum saying, “We know that the new U.S. administration is reviewing and assessing its foreign policy we hope that the U.S. policy makers will keep pace with the times, see clearly the trend of the world, abandon biases, give up unwarranted suspicions and move to bring the China policy back to reason to ensure a healthy steady development of China-U.S. relations,”.
China faces more opposition than ever in Washington due to its trade record, territorial disputes with neighbours, and accusations of technology theft and data spying. Taiwan enjoys strong bipartisan support, in view of China’s human rights violations in history, especially over the recent times in Hong Kong, Xinjiang and Tibet.
Mr. Wang said China was ready to peacefully coexist and seek common development and “has no intention to challenge or replace the United States”. He has also urged the U.S. to “stop smearing” the reputation of China’s ruling Communist Party and to “stop conniving at or even supporting the erroneous words and actions of separatist forces for Taiwan independence and stop undermining China’s sovereignty and security on internal affairs concerning Hong Kong, Xinjiang and Tibet.”
Mr. Wang said the U.S. should reactivate all levels of dialogue which he said the U.S. had effectively halted under the Trump administration, and boost cooperation on major bilateral and international issues. The COVID-19 pandemic, climate change and the global economic recovery are the three biggest issues on which the sides can cooperate, he said.
On trade, Mr. Wang said China would defend the rights of U.S. companies while hoping the U.S. would “adjust its policies as soon as possible, among others, remove unreasonable tariffs on Chinese goods, lift its unilateral sanctions on Chinese companies and research and educational institutes and abandon irrational suppression of China’s technological progress.” The U.S. should also lift restrictions on media, educational and people-to-people exchanges to reverse sharp declines in numbers of Chinese studying in the U.S. and visits by Chinese for tourism or business.
As is usual in Chinese foreign policy, Mr. Wang put the onus for improving relations squarely on the shoulders of the U.S. and offered no direct proposals for major breakthroughs, even while encouraging increased dialogue. “All this has given us a deeper understanding of what human rights truly mean and how to better protect them. We are more convinced that we are on the right path and have every confidence in the future,” Chinese spokesperson Ms. Hua Chunying said.