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Politics

As Tensions Simmer, China Demands US Action to Improve Ties

February 28, 2022

BEIJING — China’s top diplomat called on the U.S. Monday to take steps to improve ties, as tensions simmer over Taiwan, trade and other issues.

Foreign Minister Wang Yi’s remarks Monday were delivered virtually to a forum marking the 50th anniversary of the Shanghai Communique signed during the icebreaking 1972 visit to China by President Richard Nixon.

That trip led seven years later to the U.S. and China establishing diplomatic relations, upon which the U.S. cut formal ties with Taiwan, which China claims as its own territory to be brought under its control by force if necessary.

Wang urged Washington to “reinstate a reasonable and pragmatic China policy” and work with China to put their relations on track. He reiterated China’s complaints that the U.S. was not upholding its commitments but didn’t mention any specific steps China would take.

The sides need to view their relations “in the broader perspective, with a more inclusive attitude, and choose dialogue over confrontation, cooperation over conflict, openness over seclusion, and integration over decoupling,” Wang said.

China has been particularly irked by U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken’s characterization of ties as “competitive when it should be, collaborative when it can be, adversarial when it must be,” saying the sides should be cooperating across the board, in spite of their sharp differences.

“The United States should truly see China as a partner in the course of development, rather than an adversary, and power games,” Wang said.

Rapprochement between Washington and Beijing in 1972 was largely drive by their mutual distrust of the Soviet Union. In the decades since, China has grown increasingly close to Moscow, while U.S.-Russia tensions have soared over the war in Ukraine.

Chinese leader Xi Jinping met with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Beijing earlier this month and China has refused to either condemn or endorse Russia’s actions, despite its insistence on upholding national sovereignty above all.

China, along with India and the United Arab Emirates, abstained in Friday’s 11-1 vote on a U.N. Security Council resolution demanding that Moscow immediately stop its attack on Ukraine. On Monday, the Foreign Ministry said the imposition of sanctions on Russia would “disrupt the process of political settlement.”

“China must decide where to stand and understand that bilateral relations with the U.S. will only become more strained in the absence of a clear choice to stand with international law,” said forum participant Jacob Lew, chair of the influential National Committee on U.S.-China Relations and a former U.S. treasury secretary.

The Shanghai Communique dwelled extensively on the status of Taiwan, which split from the mainland amid civil war in 1949 and has never been governed by the communist People’s Republic of China. Following the 1979 break in ties with Taiwan, the U.S. Congress passed legislation assuring that the U.S. would ensure Taiwan could defend itself and treat threats to the island as issues of “major concern.”

Taiwan continues to be the main irritant in U.S.-China relations, particularly as successive U.S. administrations have approved arms sales to the island and increased high-level contacts with the democratically elected government in Taipei.

On Saturday, China’s Defense Ministry protested as provocative the passage of the guided-missile destroyer USS Ralph Johnson through the Taiwan Strait. The Strait is in international waters and the U.S. Navy said the ship’s passage “demonstrates the United States’ commitment to a free and open Indo-Pacific. The United States military flies, sails and operates anywhere international law allows.”

 

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