China shows no sign of toning down the harsh rhetoric with the U.S. during the visit of Deputy Secretary of State Wendy Sherman, who on Monday held “frank and open” talks with Foreign Minister Wang Yi and one of his deputies in the Chinese city of Tianjin.
Underscoring an increasingly adversarial relationship between the world’s two richest superpowers, Chinese officials accused the U.S. of “coercive diplomacy,” questioned the moral high ground with which the U.S. has mustered a coalition of international partners against it and warned the U.S. to stop meddling in Taiwan or Xinjiang issues.
They also presented Sherman with two lists of action — the lists included revoking sanctions on Communist Party officials, lifting visa bans for students, making life easier for state-affiliated journalists and reopening the door for Confucius Institutes — in the hope that Washington, D.C., will follow through.
“The U.S. side is in no position to lecture China on democracy and human rights,” Vice Foreign Minister Xie Feng told Sherman, adding that the U.S. was once “engaged in genocide against Native Americans.”
China has not yet released details of Wang’s meeting with Sherman, which took place in a hotel compound modeled on millenia-old Chinese architecture in Tianjin, a coastal city not far from Beijing.
U.S. attempts to separate climate change cooperation from economic competition or human rights criticisms wouldn’t work, according to Chinese officials.
“Chinese people look at things with eyes wide open. They see the competitive, collaborative and adversarial rhetoric as a thinly veiled attempt to contain and suppress China,” Xie said. “They feel that the real emphasis is on the adversarial aspect.”
“U.S. policy seems to be demanding cooperation when it wants something from China; decoupling, cutting off supplies, blockading or sanctioning China when it believes it has an advantage; and resorting to conflict and confrontation at all costs,” Xie said.
The strong response came despite Sherman’s attempt to reassure her Chinese interlocutors that the U.S. was trying to prevent confrontation.
“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,” State Department spokesperson Ned Price said in a statement. “They discussed ways to set terms for responsible management of the U.S.-China relationship. The Deputy Secretary underscored that the United States welcomes the stiff competition between our countries — and that we intend to continue to strengthen our own competitive hand — but that we do not seek conflict with the PRC.”
Sherman raised several human rights issues with Wang, according to Price. Those included Hong Kong, Xinjiang, Tibet, as well as “concerns about Beijing’s conduct in cyberspace; across the Taiwan Strait; and in the East and South China Seas.”
She also raised the sensitive issue of the World Health Organization’s ongoing probe into Covid-19 origin, which Beijing is blocking on the grounds of politicization and stigmatization.