When top Chinese and US diplomats held their final meeting over the weekend, Beijing handed over four lists of issues it wanted Washington to address in order to improve the current strained relationship between the two major world powers.
The exchange, first reported in a statement issued by the Chinese Foreign Ministry on Saturday, was confirmed Monday during a press briefing by spokesperson Wang Wenbin, who gave a more detailed overview of the content of these requests transmitted by the Chinese Minister of Foreign Affairs Wang Yi to the American Secretary. of State Antony Blinken.
“They include the updated list of U.S. wrongdoings that must end and the updated list of key individual cases that the U.S. must address, which were first presented to the U.S. side at the meeting of last year in Tianjin,” Wang Wenbin told reporters. “The other two lists are the list of acts of the 117th Congress of great concern to China and the list of proposals for cooperation in eight areas, including climate change, public health and people-to-people exchanges.”
Summarizing the details of these lists presented to President Joe Biden’s administration on behalf of Chinese President Xi Jinping, Wang Wenbin said they “once again demonstrate China’s serious position that the United States must stop to exercise containment and suppression, stop interfering in China’s internal affairs, and stop undermining China’s sovereignty, security and development interests. »
“The lists also reflect China’s constructive attitude towards conducting practical cooperation with the United States on the basis of mutual respect, equality and mutual benefit,” he added. “We hope the US side can take China’s lists seriously and take concrete steps to fulfill the commitments made by President Biden and the US government.”
Blinken did not address the four lists directly when speaking to reporters following his talks with Wang on Saturday, but he said the two sides discussed areas “where greater cooperation between our country should be possible, particularly on the climate crisis, food security, health, the fight against narcotics”, as well as “areas of disagreement and the means of managing and reducing the risks”, in particular on the tensions at about Taiwan, human rights concerns in Hong Kong, Xinjiang and Tibet, territorial disputes in the South China Sea and the status of US citizens unable to leave China.
Blinken added that “despite the complexity of our relationship”, he could “say with some confidence” that both sides had found the talks “helpful and constructive”.
Newsweek contacted the State Department for comment.
The contents of the four lists have not been made public in full, but past statements have given clues as to what exactly Beijing was asking of Washington.
After presenting the first two lists to US Undersecretary of State Wendy Sherman in Tianjin in July last year, Chinese Vice Foreign Minister Xie Feng said he and his colleagues took a “position on China-US relations,” and urged “the US side to change its extremely misguided perception of China and its extremely dangerous China policy.”
“The Chinese side also again expressed strong dissatisfaction with the wrong statements and actions of the United States on issues such as tracing the origin of the novel coronavirus, Taiwan, Xinjiang, Hong Kong and [the] South China Sea,” Xie said at the time.”[China] urged the US side to immediately stop interfering in China’s internal affairs, harming China’s interests, walking red lines, playing with fire and engaging in group confrontation under the guise of values.”
Directly addressing the “list of US wrongdoings that must stop”, Xie said that “the Chinese side has urged the US side to unconditionally withdraw its visa restrictions on Chinese Communist Party members and their families, revoke the sanctions against Chinese leaders, government officials and sectors and visa restrictions against Chinese students, stop suppressing Chinese companies, disturb Chinese students and suppress Confucius Institutes, withdraw the registration of Chinese media in as a “foreign agent” or “foreign mission” and to rescind the extradition of Meng Wanzhou.”
It appears that progress has been made on some requests over the past year.
For example, in August the Biden administration closed its formal investigation into the origins of COVID-19 with an inconclusive finding among intelligence agencies about whether the disease is more likely to emerge naturally or to arise. a laboratory such as the Wuhan Institute of Virology. The following month, an admission of guilt allowed Meng, chief financial officer of Chinese telecommunications giant Huawei, to return home after being detained in Canada on US charges of fraudulent dealings aimed at dodging US sanctions on Iran.
And after Biden and Xi’s virtual summit in November, the two sides agreed to extend the validity of visas given to each other’s journalists from three months to a year, and allow them to leave and return without restrictions.
Many of the most recent strains in US-China relations have emerged under former President Donald Trump’s administration, and Chinese officials have gone public with their hopes of finding a better partner in Biden. But Republicans and Democrats have hardened their stances against Beijing in recent years and have sought to pass a series of laws aimed at countering the People’s Republic.
Among the most comprehensive measures was the U.S. Innovation and Competition Act, originally introduced as the Endless Frontier Act, which was conceived as an ambitious effort to reorganize U.S. funding for science and technology initiatives, particularly in order to counter and compete with China. . It was first passed by the Senate in June last year but has remained a source of protest for Beijing, which has criticized calls for sanctions against Chinese industries and support for those in Taiwan, a self-governing island backed by the United States but asserted by China.
The bill is currently being assessed against the House of Representatives America COMPETES Act of 2022, which includes similar provisions aimed at competing with China, and was recently passed by the Senate in March. Conservatives have pushed for even tougher legislation against Beijing through proposals such as the Anti-Communist China Act introduced by the House in July last year.
One law pertaining to China that has since been signed into law is the Uyghur Forced Labor Prevention Act, which was approved by Biden in December. The move was aimed at preventing the importation of products made under conditions the United States has described as a human rights violation related to China’s policies toward the largely Muslim Uyghur minority in the northern province. western China, where Beijing has long denied Washington’s “genocide” claims.
Even the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, part of Biden’s $4 trillion U.S. jobs plan signed into law in November, examined the potential role of labor practices in Xinjiang on the imports of electric vehicle components and restricted the use of funds for fiber optic cable. and optical transmission equipment made in China.
While relations between the United States and China have remained strained since Biden took office nearly a year and a half ago, leaders on both sides have recognized the need to manage their dynamics responsibly. . There has been a notable increase in high-level engagements between the two major nations in recent months, even as the United States remains wary of China’s neutral stance on Russia’s ongoing war in Ukraine.
In another sign of potential progress, U.S. officials have suggested they are looking to reconfigure tariffs imposed on China as part of a trade war launched under the Trump administration. The apparent change came as Biden looked for ways to fight inflation at home.
But geopolitical friction remains a major obstacle to improving US-China relations, especially as the Biden administration has presented an “Indo-Pacific” strategy, widely seen as a project to supplant Beijing’s influence. in the region by that of Washington. Expanding ties with Taiwan was a particularly sensitive issue and was discussed at length by Chinese officials.
Accusing Washington of backing “independence” forces in Taipei, People’s Liberation Army Eastern Theater Command spokesman Col. Shi Yi said on Friday that Chinese forces had held air and sea exercises around Taiwan.
Meanwhile, the United States continues to lead the world’s largest annual naval exercise, Rim of the Pacific (RIMPAC), from which China was expelled in 2018.
The commander of the U.S. Pacific Fleet, Navy Admiral Samuel Paparo, told a press briefing on Saturday that the latest installation of the exercises, which began late last month, “is not directed against a particular actor in the nation-state”.
At the same time, however, he said the training “demonstrates the solidarity of all its participants with the rules-based international order and the principles of sovereignty, freedom of the seas, the United Nations Convention on the Right to the sea, and against what would otherwise be expansionist activities.”