China says it wants to get relations with US ‘back on the right track’

Catherine Wong, South China Morning Post

Posted at Jan 21 2021 12:48 PM

Beijing said it wanted to work with the new US government to get bilateral relations “back on the right track”, just hours before Joe Biden’s inauguration as president.

“Despite our differences, China and the United States share a wide range of mutual interests and there is room for cooperation,” foreign ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying said during a regular press briefing on Wednesday.

“We also share unique responsibilities in safeguarding world peace and development,” she said.

Relations between Beijing and Washington are at their lowest point in decades, with the two superpowers at loggerheads over a range of issues. In one final push, the Donald Trump administration on Tuesday formally declared that China’s repression against Muslim minorities in Xinjiang was genocide.

But Beijing signalled it was optimistic about working with the incoming Biden team and ready to move on from the last four years of antagonism – despite the growing bipartisan consensus in the US for a tougher approach on China.

“We hope the new US administration will meet the Chinese side halfway, strengthen dialogue, manage our differences while expanding our cooperation, and bring Sino-US relations back on the right track as soon as we can to benefit the people of our two nations and the world,” Hua said.

Biden’s nominee for secretary of state, Antony Blinken, told a Senate confirmation hearing on Tuesday that he believed outgoing President Trump was right in taking a tougher approach on China – even if he did not agree with all his methods.

Blinken said there was “no doubt” China posed the most significant challenge to the United States of any nation, and he believed there was a strong foundation to build a bipartisan policy to stand up to Beijing. He also endorsed the Trump administration’s assessment that Beijing was committing genocide in Xinjiang, and said he was in favour of greater engagement with Taiwan.

Asked about Blinken’s remarks, Hua said Beijing hoped the new US administration would have a “rational and correct understanding of the Xinjiang issue and understand that [the accusations regarding Xinjiang] are all lies”.

Hua added that Beijing would resolutely oppose any attempts by Washington to interfere in its domestic affairs in Taiwan, Hong Kong and Xinjiang.

Lu Xiang, a US affairs expert with the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, said the Biden administration would continue to see China as a major threat.

“But I believe Biden won’t push the bilateral relationship towards a serious confrontation if he really cares about the interests of Americans,” Lu said.

Liu Weidong, a US affairs specialist from the Chinese Academy of Sciences, expected the new administration to cooperate more with allies and place more importance on human rights issues – meaning Washington could increase pressure on China over Xinjiang, Tibet and Hong Kong.

“And the Biden administration will not seek a complete decoupling, it will be a selective decoupling from China in hi-tech and other sensitive industries,” he said.

Additional reporting by Kristin Huang