China-US Relations

China offers an olive branch to the US wrapped in barbwire

Top diplomate Yang Jiechi reiterates Beijing’s line of ‘corporation’ but warns of meddling in ‘national security’ issues

If this is an olive branch, it appears to be wrapped in barbwire.

China’s leading diplomate Yang Jiechi called for an era of “corporation” with the United States this week before warning Washington not to cross “national dignity red lines.”

Speaking at an online forum in Beijing, he simply echoed earlier appeals to US President Joe Biden to discard the “confrontational” approach of Donald Trump’s administration.

At the same time, the director of the Central Foreign Affairs Commission of China’s Communist Party cautioned the White House about meddling in domestic “issues.”

“The United States should stop interfering in Hong Kong, Tibet, Xinjiang, and other issues [such as Taiwan] regarding China’s territorial integrity and sovereignty. They constitute a red line that must not be crossed,” Yang, who is senior to Foreign Affairs Minister Wang Yi, told a gathering of the National Committee on US-China Relations on Tuesday.

The facts:

  • There was very little new in his address.
  • He simply reiterated remarks by China’s Ambassador to the US Cui Tiankai and Deputy Foreign Affairs Minister Le Yucheng to stop seeing China as an enemy.
  • Yang mentioned the word “cooperation” 24 times in his speech. 
  • He also suggested that US companies could gain a larger slice of China’s market.
  • Exports to the country in the next decade are estimated to be worth US$22 trillion.
  • Yang reassured the US that China had no intention of challenging its position in the world.
  • The Politburo member also stressed that “no force could stop China’s development.”

My judgment remains that genocide was committed against the Uighurs and that hasn’t changed.

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken

What was said: “We in China hope that the United States will rise above the outdated mentality of zero-sum, major-power rivalry and work with China to keep the relationship on the right track, But both sides need to respect each other’s histories, cultures, and political systems, [while realizing] the development of China is a process that no force can hold back,” Yang said.

Behind the scenes: Human rights and stopping China’s “bullying” are key components of Biden’s policy. Yang’s speech did little to address those concerns. At least one million Uighur Muslims have been held in Xinjiang internment camps with Beijing being accused of forced “sterilization and abortion.” China has denied the claims.

Washington’s policy: US Secretary of State Antony Blinken has said the ruling CCP must be held accountable for its actions. “My judgment remains that genocide was committed against the Uighurs and that hasn’t changed,” he told a media briefing, according to a US State Department transcript

“[We must be] prepared to act for what China is doing in Hong Kong [and] for the bellicosity and threats it is projecting towards Taiwan.

US National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan

Flashpoints: The oppression of Hong Kong’s pro-democracy movement and the “bullying” of Taiwan are other crucial issues. “[We must be] prepared to act for what China is doing [against Uighur Muslims] in Xinjiang, what it’s doing in Hong Kong [and] for the bellicosity and threats it is projecting towards Taiwan,” National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan said last month.

China Factor comment: There is probably room for Biden and President Xi Jinping to “cooperate” on Climate Change and nuclear proliferation but very little else. Concerns remain about technology theft, Beijing’s predatory trading practices, the militarization of the South China Sea and CCP threats to declare “war” on Taiwan. Unless China starts to behave like a responsible world power, the tension between Beijing and Washington will only increase.

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