A top Chinese diplomat urged the U.S. to stop "crossing lines and playing with fire” on Taiwan, as part of a broad series of warnings to President Joe Biden against meddling in Beijing’s affairs.
Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi said at his annual news briefing on Sunday there was "no room for compromise or concessions” in Beijing’s claim to sovereignty over the democratically ruled island. Wang’s response on Taiwan was one of several in which he hit out at the U.S. for "willfully interfering in other countries’ internal affairs in the name of democracy and human rights.”
"It is important that the United States recognizes this as soon as possible,” Wang said on the sidelines of the National People’s Congress in Beijing. "Otherwise, the world will remain far from tranquil.”
At the same time, Wang reiterated China’s willingness to work with the U.S. to address shared concerns about the coronavirus pandemic and the global economy. "I hope China and the U.S. restarting cooperation on climate change can also bring a positive change of climate to bilateral ties,” Wang added.
While China has expressed optimism that relations would improve under Biden, it continues to put the onus on Washington to fix the damage done during Donald Trump’s four-year tenure. On Sunday, Wang cited Beijing’s battle with "hegemony, high-handedness and bullying” and "outright interference in China’s domestic affairs” in a list of the country’s diplomatic accomplishments over the past year.
The Biden administration has pledged to put greater emphasis on human rights and building an allied response to China, even as it quiets down the anti-Chinese rhetoric of the Trump era. U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken last week called dealings with China the defining test of the century, describing Washington’s intended approach to Beijing as "competitive when it should be, collaborative when it can be and adversarial when it must be.”
Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin later suggested during an interview that the U.S. would bolster support for Asia-Pacific allies in the face of "very aggressive” actions by China. "In some cases, they have been coercive. And some of that coercion has been directed against our allies. And our allies are very important to us,” Austin said Sunday on ABC’s "This Week.”
China appears to be trying to reestablish a status quo shattered under Trump. The previous U.S. administration, among other things, sanctioned senior Chinese officials over human rights practices in Xinjiang and Hong Kong, approved the highest-level cabinet visit to Taiwan in four decades and imposed tariffs on about $335 billion of Chinese goods annually.
The briefing Sunday was the latest indication that tensions between the world’s two largest economies may continue. Wang’s remarks echoed those of Yang Jiechi, the head of the ruling Communist Party’s foreign affairs body, when he urged the U.S. not to cross China’s "red lines.” State media recently complained that Biden’s early policies were similar to those of his predecessor.
"We urge the new administration in the U.S. to fully recognize the high sensitivity of the Taiwan question,” Wang said, urging the U.S. to stop "the approach of crossing lines and playing with fire of the previous administration, and properly and cautiously tackle” the issue.
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