China tells US to ‘reflect deeply’ over downturn in relations

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China’s foreign minister has told the US ambassador that Washington is responsible for the downturn in relations between the two countries and must “reflect deeply” before ties can get back “on the right track”, an official said.

Qin Gang’s comments follow a suspension of serious dialogue on a range of issues between the world’s largest economies, increasingly at odds over tariffs, attempts by Washington to deprive China of cutting-edge technology, and China’s claims to self-governing Taiwan and large parts of the South and East China Seas.

China’s foreign ministry quoted Mr Qin as telling Ambassador Nicolas Burns that a “series of erroneous words and deeds by the US” since a meeting in November between US president Joe Biden and Chinese leader Xi Jinping “have undermined the hard-won positive momentum of Sino-US relations”.

“The US side should reflect deeply, meet China halfway, and propel China/US relations out of the difficulties and back on the right track,” Mr Qin was quoted as saying.

The United States should “correct its understanding of China and return to rationality”, Mr Qin said, repeating his earlier accusation that the US was attempting to suppress and contain China.

Beijing routinely cites US political and military support of Taiwan as infringing on its sovereignty.

Mr Qin said ties had “grown icy” and the priority was to stabilise them “and avoid a downward spiral and unanticipated events”.

The US should stop “undermining China’s sovereignty, security, and development interests”, particularly through support of Taiwan’s independent identity, Mr Qin said.

China says Taiwan must come under its rule, by force if necessary, while the United States says the relationship between the sides must be resolved peaceably.

US law requires it to treat threats to Taiwan, including a military blockade, as a matter of “grave concern”, although it remains ambiguous about under what conditions American forces could be dispatched to defend the island.

US Secretary of State Anthony Blinken
US Secretary of State Anthony Blinken cancelled a Beijing trip aimed at easing US/China tensions in February (David Zalubowski/AP)

Mr Biden has been seen as going a step further by repeatedly saying that the US would back Taiwan militarily, and America has been upgrading basing arrangements with the Philippines, located just south of Taiwan.

US/China military contacts have been on hold for years, and China’s top staff refused to answer a call from American defence secretary Lloyd Austin after then-speaker of the House of Representatives Nancy Pelosi visited Taiwan last year.

China retaliated for the visit by staging a naval and air force blockade of Taiwan and cutting off channels of communication with the US on issues from environmental protection to maritime security.

At a daily briefing Monday, Chinese foreign ministry spokesperson Wang Wenbin described the meeting between Mr Qin and Mr Burns as “a normal diplomatic arrangement”.

In a tweet, Mr Burns said he met with Mr Qin and “discussed challenges in the US/China relationship and the necessity of stabilising ties and expanding high-level communication”.

Contacts between the sides have been fraught for months since US secretary of state Antony Blinken abruptly cancelled a Beijing trip aimed at easing US/China tensions in February. This came after a large high-altitude Chinese balloon was shot down after it sailed across the US, drawing Pentagon accusations of spying on sensitive military sites despite firm Chinese denials.

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