Although the Two Sessions press conference concluded yesterday, the focus of both Chinese and foreign media remain on State Councilor Wang Yi’s statement.*
At yesterday’s press conference, State Councilor Wang Yi expressed that Beijing is willing to work with Washington, and hopes Washington will move in the same direction. He also hoped that the U.S. would remove any hindrances to bilateral cooperation, as well as avoid creating any new barriers. Today, a Bloomberg reporter inquired again about Wang’s stance on China-U.S. relations asking, “Are there any specific actions that China can take to improve the relations between the two countries?”
Foreign Ministry Spokesman Zhao Lijian once again elaborated on China’s position with regard to the improvement of China-U.S. relations, the core of which is “non-confrontation, non-conflict, mutual respect and win-win cooperation.” China is also determined to safeguard national sovereignty, security and development interests. Zhao stated, “State Councilor Wang Yi has also made a very clear statement. The list of areas where the two countries can and should cooperate is very clear.”
In fact, the “list of items” State Councilor Wang mentioned in his response include matters such as combating COVID-19, economic recovery, and climate change. In these areas, both China and the U.S. have much room to cooperate; China has also had a very open attitude about this.
However, the Bloomberg reporter did not seem to get the answer he was hoping for. Shortly afterward, he raised another question that seemed to either deliberately or otherwise criticize China. “So it seems like the action is on the U.S. side and everything should be on the U.S. side,” he said. “Is there any specific actions that China can do to improve the situation?”
According to Zhao, this was the reporter’s “interpretation.” Moreover, the current state of China-U.S. relations has nothing to do with China. Zhao went on to point out that “the previous U.S. administration took various retrogressive moves against China-U.S. relations, which caused serious damage to bilateral relations. From this perspective, I would say that the U.S. government has a greater responsibility to take initiatives and measures.”
What sort of goodwill gesture will we see from the U.S.?
At today’s press conference, Zhao also stressed that he hoped, “the U.S. side will view China and China-U.S. relations in an objective and rational manner” and adopt more “rational and pragmatic policy toward China.” Shenzhen Satellite TV and journalists noted that the word “rational” was used frequently throughout Zhao’s reply.
British academic and journalist John Ross, who is also a senior fellow at Chongyang Institute for Financial Studies at Renmin University of China, told Shenzhen Satellite TV that “The most important thing the United States should do is drop the tariffs.” In regard to the frequent use of the word “rational,” he added that “the irrational tariff policy of the Trump administration not only harmed China’s interests, but also resulted in extremely high costs for American companies and consumers, and had a negative impact on the world economy … We can see that the Biden administration has displayed a rational response to COVID-19, so hopefully we will be able to see the same sort of response in other policy areas.”
As for what the U.S.’ next steps should be, Zhao also clearly presented China’s position. “Building on the telephone conversation between the two heads of state, China and the United States should work together to focus on cooperation, manage differences, bring China-U.S. relations back on the right track, and deliver greater benefit to the people of our two countries and the world,” he said.
Is It ‘Fake News’ or ‘Invented Facts?’
At today’s press conference, the human rights issue came up once again, raised by foreign reporters and to which Ross commented that when it comes to issues such as Xinjiang, Hong Kong and Tibet, some Western countries are not just making fake news, they are “inventing facts.” In the 2016 presidential election, American citizens had suffered from the effects of such lies, and now the West is using the same method to fight China.
Are there many fabrications the West has come up with? Ross went on to cite a series of measures taken by the U.S. “In the 1960s, the U.S. invented the claim that North Vietnamese ships attacked American warships and used this to justify the launch of the Vietnam War,” Ross said. In order to invade Iraq, the U.S. claimed that the country had weapons of mass destruction, all of which was just an attempt to ‘rationalize’ invading.”
Just as Wang pointed out at the Two Sessions press conference, “They don’t care about truth, they’re only interested in political maneuvering and creating the so-called Xinjiang-related issues to undermine security and stability in Xinjiang and hold back China’s development.”
Ross referred to it as the West exaggerating real world problems. “It is also a typical example of exaggerating certain facts without focusing on the important issues,” he said.** He continuously emphasized that currently, the most pressing issue is the need for cooperation, coming together to combat COVID-19, restart the global economy, and face global warming. These are all issues facing humanity that urgently need to be addressed, not fabricating facts and spreading rumors.
Ross pointed out that there are signs that indicate President Biden’s administration currently does not have a clear stance on China. “His (Biden) actions are somewhat contradictory,” Ross said.** He stated that on the one hand we are now seeing officials who have held a more hard-line stance and wish to continue the previous administration’s approach on China policy join Biden’s cabinet. On the other hand, there are also officials who are concerned with global warming, and wish to cooperate with China on Biden’s Cabinet as well. “Biden should think carefully about his next steps, he’s got a lot of individuals with different interests in his cabinet,” Ross said.**
It’s also worth noting that for some time now, the Biden administration’s statements on the level of competition between the two countries have almost dominated the mainstream; the calls for cooperation have seemingly been drowned out. The Biden administration always emphasizes the aspect of ‘extreme competition’ between the two countries. Of course, it’s better than the previous government’s focus on confrontation, but why emphasize it? In Ross’ view, such a statement is regrettable. “Some level of competition is normal, we can’t avoid that fact. But Biden’s administration always emphasizes this aspect, this makes it hard for me to tell what his stance on China policy actually is, or if the U.S. administration is truly sincere. The administration has taken a step forward, but only relative to the previous Trump administration.” Ross said.**
*Editor’s note: “Two Sessions” refers to a meeting between the two main political bodies of China, which meet every year to discuss plans for China’s policies involving the economy, military, trade, diplomacy and the environment, among others.
**Editor’s note: Although accurately translated, these remarks could not be independently verified.