Sino-US relations: China calls for end to trade restrictions and warns against interference

Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi 

Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi

China’s foreign minister laid out conditions for a reset in Sino-US relations on Monday, calling on the Biden administration to remove tariffs on Chinese goods and lift restrictions on Chinese technology companies.

Wang Yi said Beijing stood ready to reopen dialogue with Washington, but emphasised it was the US that needed to change its actions to get relations back on track.

He warned the US to stop “smearing” the Communist Party, and stop interfering in the issues of Taiwan, Hong Kong, Xinjiang and Tibet.

The US should “remove unreasonable tariffs on Chinese goods, lift its unilateral sanctions on Chinese companies and research and educational institutes, and abandon irrational suppression of China’s technological progress” to create the “necessary conditions for China-US cooperation”, he told a foreign ministry forum in Beijing.

Relations between Beijing and Washington plunged to their worst level in decades during the Trump administration, which increased tariffs on Chinese imports and imposed bans or other restrictions on Chinese tech companies.

It also angered Beijing by boosting US support for Taiwan, which China claims as its own territory, and sanctioned Chinese officials blamed for rights abuses against Muslim minorities in Xinjiang and a crackdown on Hong Kong.

On Monday, Wang said the Trump administration, and measures it took to “suppress and contain China”, were the “root cause” of the worst relations between the two sides since they established diplomatic relations in 1979.

President Joe Biden has signalled that he will maintain pressure on Beijing, telling his Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping in a phone call earlier this month that he is concerned about “Beijing’s coercive and unfair economic practices”, as well as its actions in Hong Kong and Xinjiang, and increasingly assertive moves towards Taiwan.

Mr Wang said China has “no intention to challenge or replace the United States,” and said it stood ready to work with America in dealing with the Covid pandemic, climate change and world economic recovery.

Drew Thompson, a former US defence department official with responsibility for China, said a reset in relations was “highly unlikely” when Chinese officials weren’t offering to change “any action on their part”.

“Wang Yi’s and other recent speeches emphasised the actions the US must take to reset relations, without any introspection or consideration how China’s own actions caused the US to conclude that China is a threat and strategic competitor,” he said.

“Calls for the US to change without acknowledgement of U.S. reciprocal concerns is a dead-end for engagement,” said Mr Thompson, a visiting research fellow at the National University of Singapore’s Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy.