Foreign Minister Wang Yi calls for US reset on China’s terms

He warns Sino-US relations are at a ’new crossroad’ but makes it clear Washington must ‘respect’ Beijing’s ‘social system’

Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi has called on the United States to turn the clock back and for Washington to stabilize its relationship with Beijing.

But he warned that the new administration under President-elect Joe Biden has to “respect the social system and development path” chosen by the ruling Communist Party of China or CCP.

“We know some people in the United States are apprehensive about China’s rapid development, but the most sustainable leadership is to constantly move forward yourself, rather than block the development of other countries,” he said.

Wang also pointed out that the US is at a “new crossroad,” and hoped a Biden White House would defrost frigid ties, revolving around trade, human rights, the Taiwan question and the origins of Covid-19.

The facts:

  • China’s most influential diplomat made his comments in a wide-ranging interview with the official state-run Xinhua News Agency.
  • It was released on January 2 as relations between Washington and Beijing continue to be strained.
  • Tension in the South China Sea has escalated in the past 18 months.
  • Human rights abuses against Uighur and other Turkic Muslims have increased.
  • There has also been a crackdown on pro-democracy activists in Hong Kong. 

What State Councilor Wang said: “China-US relations have come to a new crossroads, and a new window of hope is opening. We hope that the next US administration will return to a sensible approach, resume dialogue with China, restore normalcy to the bilateral relations and restart cooperation.” But wait, he also added: “We have been firm in safeguarding our national interests. We have responded resolutely and rationally to unjustified moves by the United States. We have handled issues relating to Taiwan, Hong Kong, Xinjiang and Tibet with strong countermeasures.”

Reaction to the news: Well, it was more like a precursor to the release of Wang’s interview. Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen offered an olive branch in her New Year speech. She made it clear that the democratic island was ready to have “meaningful” talks. “I want to reiterate, that when it comes to cross-strait relations we will not advance rashly and will stick to our principles,” Tsai said. Her address was branded a “cheap trick” by Beijing.

China Factor comment: The CCP has made it clear that Taiwan is a renegade province. It has vowed to take the island back by force if necessary after ramping up naval activity in response to “collusion” between Washington and Taipei. The US, in turn, has signed off on an arms deal worth US$7 billion with Tsai’s government. Elsewhere, Washington has become increasingly vocal about China’s moves to crush freedom of speech in Hong Kong, human rights violations in Xinjiang and predatory trading practices. Even though calmness might replace chaos in the Oval Office, Biden is unlikely to go soft on China.