China says hopes U.S. will remove 'unreasonable' restrictions on cooperation

BEIJING (Reuters) – The Chinese government’s top diplomat, Wang Yi, said on Sunday that Beijing is willing to communicate with the United States on the basis of mutual respect and hopes Washington will remove all “unreasonable” restrictions on cooperation as soon as possible.

FILE PHOTO: Chinese and U.S. flags flutter outside the building of an American company in Beijing, China January 21, 2021. REUTERS/Tingshu Wang

Last week U.S. President Joe Biden singled out a “growing rivalry with China” as a key challenge facing the United States, with his top diplomat describing the Asian country as “the biggest geopolitical test” of this century.

Questioned about recent U.S.-China frictions over Taiwan, Xinjiang and the South China Sea during his annual news conference, Wang said that Beijing “will never accept baseless accusations and smears”, and said the United States had used democracy and human rights as a basis for arbitrarily interfering with other countries’ affairs.

“The U.S. should realise this as soon as possible, otherwise the world will continue to experience instability,” he said.

Wang added that differences between China and the United States must be managed carefully and that the two sides must advocate healthy competition not zero-sum finger-pointing.

The United States and China are at odds over influence in the Indo-Pacific region, Beijing’s economic practices, Hong Kong, Taiwan and human rights in China’s Xinjiang region.

The Biden administration has indicated it will broadly continue a tough approach to China taken by former President Donald Trump, but do so in coordination will allies.

During Trump’s administration, the United States levied a series of sanctions against China and its officials over Xinjiang, Hong Kong and Beijing’s economic policies, which have not been lifted under the new administration.

Secretary of State Antony Blinken has said he agrees with his predecessor Mike Pompeo’s determination that genocide against Muslims is underway in Xinjiang.

Activists and U.N. experts say 1 million Muslim Uighurs are held in Chinese camps. China denies abuses and says its camps provide vocational training and are needed to fight extremism.

During Wang’s Sunday news conference, the diplomat also spoke broadly on accusations over human rights abuses in Xinjiang, saying that some Western politicians chose to believe lies about the region.

Biden wants to signal a break with Trump’s “America First” approach by re-engaging with allies and focussing on multilateral diplomacy, while also recognising the world has changed since he served in the Obama administration that preceded Trump.

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