China’s top diplomat Wang Yi looked at the script and decided to rip it up.
The Chinese Foreign Minister and member of the influential State Council made it perfectly clear last week that France’s concerns about deteriorating human rights issues in Xinjiang and Hong Kong were not up for discussion.
He went even further and told French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian to mind his own business during the Paris leg of his short European Union tour.
“These are both internal Chinese affairs and foreign powers shouldn’t interfere,” he said.
What followed was pure window dressing.
“China and Europe should be the models to push for global governance,” he said in a speech at the French Institute for International Relations in Paris.
“We should jointly oppose ideologies like ‘my country goes first,'” Wang added as reported by state-run CGTN television news network, which was a clear rebuke to US President Donald Trump’s “America First” policy and Washington’s human rights push in China.
Draconian security law
Like the US, the European Union has become increasingly vocal about the draconian security law in Hong Kong and the herding of more than one million Uighurs into Xinjiang camps.
“Watchdog groups, among them Human Rights Watch and the Uyghur Human Rights Project [a Washington-based group], have also accused Beijing of forcing Uighur women to get abortions and be sterilized,” Voice of America reported earlier this month.
But these issues were brushed under the carpet as Wang trotted out the same old lines spouted by his boss, President Xi Jinping, that China would continue to “adhere to cooperative” development.
“The world must have realized that it is the US that stands on the wrong side of history. We have never wanted to engage in a New Cold War with anyone,” he said.
From Washington’s point of view, human rights violations and the push by Xi’s ruling Communist Party to militarize the South China Sea, which would endanger up to US$3 trillion in trade, have become matters of grave concern.
Saber-rattling over democratic Taiwan and a lack of transparency about the outbreak of the Covid-19 pandemic in the Chinese city of Wuhan earlier this year have also raised eyebrows even in Brussels.
Last month, EU powerhouse Germany took over the rotating presidency with Beijing high on the agenda.
“Never before has Europe been so united on China as it is now. Germany has the opportunity in the coming six months to develop this unity into a convincing policy,” Kristin Shi-Kupfer, of the Mercator Institute for China Studies in Berlin, said.
“[The] task is clear: Europe needs not only a common economic line, but also a geostrategic and political line on Beijing. China’s undermining of Hong Kong’s autonomy and its advances in the South China Sea affect Europe’s interests just as much as the lack of equal market access,” she wore in a commentary.
Even the usual double-speak from senior Beijing officials such as Wang will not be able to hide Xi’s ‘China First’ agenda, and its complete disregard for human rights and freedom of expression.