China’s foreign minister has urged Washington to lift sanctions and to stop interfering in the country’s internal affairs and suppressing its tech sector, in his first big speech on US-China relations since Joe Biden’s inauguration.
Wang Yi called on Washington to “abandon irrational suppression of China’s technological progress” at a US-China forum in Beijing on Monday.
He also insisted that the US stop meddling in what China considers domestic issues, saying that “a good-mannered gentleman never thrusts his knife and fork into the food on someone else’s plate”.
The demands followed a series of frosty exchanges between Beijing and Washington in the early weeks of the Biden administration, with the US president stressing that he would continue to speak out on human and civil rights.
Antony Blinken, US secretary of state, and Biden have pressed their Chinese counterparts on human rights in Hong Kong, as well as in Xinjiang, where more than 1m Uighurs have been held in detention camps, and Taiwan over the past month.
Biden used his first call with Chinese president Xi Jinping to raise concerns over the treatment of the Uighurs, which Blinken has described as “genocide”.
The Biden administration has signalled that it had no intention of rolling back tariffs in the near term. One senior US official recently said that the White House did not want to give up the leverage the measures provided, particularly before it had talked widely with US allies and come up with a strategy to deal with China.
The administration has also made clear it intends to restrict the export of sensitive technology to China, but will do so in a more co-ordinated manner with its allies than occurred during the Trump administration.
Biden told the Munich Security Conference last week that the US and its allies “must prepare together for a long-term strategic competition with China”. The president said they should “push back against the Chinese government’s economic abuses and coercion that undercut . . . the international economic system”.
Shi Yinhong, an international relations professor at Renmin University in Beijing and a government adviser, said Wang’s speech “drew the bottom lines for Sino-US relations and shows that the Chinese side will not make concessions first”.
But Shi added that the US would not agree to such demands. “The new administration may take a different approach, but it will not give up the goal of decoupling with China on the high-tech sector,” he said.
Wang alleged the main reason for the deterioration of relations was that “the United States basically cut off bilateral dialogue at all levels”, and urged the resumption of exchanges in areas such as academia.
The remarks came three weeks after Yang Jiechi, China’s top foreign policy official, blamed for the strained US-China relationship on the Trump administration.
“The Chinese are clearly signalling they want a new basis for stable relations with the US. But they are not sure how to find it,” said Evan Medeiros, the former top White House Asia adviser to Barack Obama and now a professor at Georgetown University. “They are grasping and groping.”