In stinging rebuke, China tells US diplomat that its rise can’t be stopped
By Chris Buckley and Steven Lee Myers
A senior Chinese diplomat on Monday bluntly warned the visiting American deputy secretary of state, Wendy R. Sherman, that the Biden administration’s strategy of pursuing both confrontation and cooperation with Beijing was sure to fail.
China’s vice foreign minister, Xie Feng, told Sherman that the United States’ “competitive, collaborative and adversarial rhetoric” was a “thinly veiled attempt to contain and suppress China,” according to a summary of Xie’s comments that the Chinese foreign ministry sent to reporters.
Sherman’s meetings offered the latest gauge of the Biden administration’s strategy of stepping up pressure against the Chinese government on several fronts, including human rights and internet hacking, while seeking to work together on global problems like climate change and international health threats. Xie’s remarks underscored the anger that has been building in China toward the United States, undermining the chances that the approach will work.
“It seems that a whole-of-government and whole-of-society campaign is being waged to bring China down,” Xie told Sherman, according to the summaries of his comments, which were also issued on the Chinese foreign ministry website. “Do bad things and get good results. How is that ever possible?”
The Chinese foreign ministry’s volley of combative comments, issued before and during Sherman’s talks in the northern Chinese city of Tianjin, suggested that her visit was unlikely to ease the disputes that have festered between Beijing and Washington. The State Department said last week that she would discuss Washington’s “serious concerns” about Chinese actions, as well as “areas where our interests align.”
But Chinese people “feel that the real emphasis is on the adversarial aspect; the collaborative aspect is just an expediency,” Xie told Sherman, according to the summary.
The acrimony echoed the opening of high-level talks between senior Chinese and Biden administration officials in March, when Beijing’s top foreign policy official, Yang Jiechi, delivered a 16-minute lecture, accusing them of arrogance and hypocrisy.
Sherman rose to prominence during the Obama administration as a leading negotiator of a nuclear agreement with Iran reached in 2015 after years of contentious talks. Now as the No. 2 in the State Department, she is focused on managing tense relations with China.
While President Joe Biden has largely avoided the heated ideological sparring with the Chinese Communist Party that the Trump administration pursued in its final year, relations remain strained.
Washington has drawn in allies to press Beijing over mass detentions and forced labor in Xinjiang and the rollback of freedom in Hong Kong.
The Chinese government has also bristled at calls from the United States, the World Health Organization and others for a fresh examination of whether the coronavirus may have slipped out of a lab in China, igniting the pandemic.
Last week, Chinese officials said they were “extremely shocked” by a WHO proposal to take a fresh look at the lab leak theory. A report in March from an initial WHO inquiry stated that it was “extremely unlikely” that the coronavirus had jumped into the wider population through a lab leak.
The Biden administration and a coalition of other governments, including the member states of NATO, last week also asserted that Chinese security services and their contract hackers were behind widespread breaches of Microsoft email systems.
Under Xi Jinping, the Chinese government has expressed impatience with criticism and demands from Washington, especially over what Beijing deems internal issues like Hong Kong, Xinjiang and human rights.
“We’ll never accept insufferably arrogant lecturing from those ‘master teachers!’” Xi said in a speech on July 1 marking 100 years since the founding of the Chinese Communist Party. He also warned that foes would “crack their heads and spill blood” against a wall of Chinese resolve.
Beijing has repeatedly retaliated against sanctions over Hong Kong and Xinjiang with its own bans on Western politicians, human rights groups and academics.
China’s foreign minister, Wang Yi, who was also scheduled to meet Sherman in Tianjin, said over the weekend that the United States needed to be taught some humility.
“If the United States still hasn’t learned how to get along with other countries in an equal manner, then we have a responsibility to work with the international community to give it a good catch-up lesson,” Wang said in talks Saturday with his Pakistani counterpart, Shah Mahmood Qureshi, according to the Chinese foreign ministry.