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Beijing urged Washington to stop "demonizing" China on Monday as rancor marked the start of talks with the highest-level U.S. envoy to visit under President Joe Biden's administration.

Deputy Secretary of State Wendy Sherman's visit to the northern city of Tianjin is the first major meeting between the world's leading economies since March discussions in Anchorage between the countries' top diplomats collapsed into mudslinging.

Sherman's trip aims to seek "guardrails" as ties continue to deteriorate on a range of issues from cybersecurity and tech supremacy to human rights in Hong Kong and Xinjiang.

"The hope may be that by demonizing China, the U.S. could somehow … blame China for its own structural problems," Chinese Vice Foreign Minister Xie Feng told Sherman, in a readout issued by China's Foreign Ministry early Monday.

"We urge the United States to change its highly misguided mindset and dangerous policy," the statement quoted Xie as saying, adding that Washington views China as an "imagined enemy."

Xie also described relations as at a "stalemate" and facing "serious difficulties."

He claimed that Chinese people view Washington's "adversarial rhetoric as a thinly veiled attempt to contain and suppress China," in comments reminiscent of the fiery exchange between Washington and Beijing's top diplomats Antony Blinken and Yang Jiechi in Alaska.

Sherman was also set to meet with Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi.

She tweeted Sunday that she had spoken with U.S. businesses about "the challenges they're facing in China," and also sent her "heartfelt condolences" to flood victims in Henan province.

The United States said last week it was hoping to use the "candid" talks as an opportunity to show Beijing "what responsible and healthy competition looks like," but wanted to avoid the relationship veering into conflict.

The July 25-26 trip is shorn of the trappings of a full-fledged official visit. Sherman will not go to Beijing, but instead spend two days starting Sunday in Tianjin, a northeastern port city.

The visit is widely viewed as a preparatory step for an eventual meeting between Biden and Chinese President Xi Jinping, as U.S.-China ties continue their free-fall with little sign of improvement.

A day prior to Sherman landing in China, Wang vowed to "teach the U.S. a lesson" in treating other countries equally, foreshadowing a rocky start to talks.

"China will not accept any country's self-proclaimed superiority," he was quoted as saying in a Foreign Ministry statement Saturday.

John Kerry, the former secretary of state turned U.S. climate envoy, is the only other senior official from the Biden administration to have visited China.

The two sides pledged to cooperate on climate change, despite their numerous differences.

Biden has largely kept the hawkish stance on China of his predecessor Donald Trump as Washington has sought to build a united front of democratic allies against Beijing.

Last week, China and the United States traded sanctions over Beijing's repression of freedoms in Hong Kong, in the latest round of an ongoing tit-for-tat saga that has targeted individuals including former U.S. commerce secretary Wilbur Ross.

Washington last week issued an advisory warning to businesses operating in Hong Kong over the city's deteriorating autonomy.

The United States also rallied allies including NATO for a rare joint condemnation last week of alleged large-scale cyberattacks from China.

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