Foreign Minister Wang Yi Urged The United States To Scrap Tariffs On Chinese Imports And Remove Restrictions On The Tech Sector.

By Teddy Ng

Foreign Minister Wang Yi Urged The United States To Scrap Tariffs On Chinese Imports And Remove Restrictions On The Tech Sector, laying out conditions for restoring damaged China-US relations. Wang told a forum in Beijing on Monday that relations were at a critical point and the US must review its policy if ties were to be repaired after the damage of the former Donald Trump administration.

“We hope the US will adjust its policies as soon as possible, removing the unreasonable tariffs imposed on Chinese products, and unilateral sanctions on Chinese companies and science research institutes, and the unreasonable suppression of Chinese tech,” Wang said. He added that China was willing to work with the US on Covid-19 pandemic control, climate change and a global economic recovery.

“With the emergence and unfolding of global challenges, the areas where China and the United States need to cooperate are not fewer, but more. The space for cooperation is not narrower, but wider. Both sides are more capable than ever of major accomplishments to benefit both countries and the world,” he said. Wang’s demands followed comments by US Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen last week that Washington would keep the tariffs in place for now, but would evaluate how to proceed after a thorough review.

“We’re in the process of evaluating what our approach should be toward China, but there are a range of issues where we see unfair practices,” Yellen told CNBC, citing concerns about China’s behaviour on trade, forced technology transfers, and subsidies to hi-tech industries.

US President Joe Biden

has yet to formulate his China policy, but has signalled it will be a key theme, pledging to work with Europe and Asia to prepare for long-term competition with Beijing. Zhang Henglong, vice-director of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation’s Public Diplomacy Institute at Shanghai University, said Wang’s remarks indicated that China was not prepared to compromise.

“[He] is telling the US government that it must change its position if it wants to improve US-China relations,” Zhang said, adding that Wang’s demands were aimed at recent remarks by US officials. “Any improvement of relations in the coming months will depend on the US reaction … [China] cannot just focus on the removal of tariffs, it needs to take a broader view.” The Trump administration treated China as a rival, and resorted to a series of measures to counter Beijing, including strengthening ties with Taiwan and imposing bans on Chinese technology, citing national security concerns.

Over the past year, the US also imposed sanctions on China over human rights concerns in Hong Kong and Xinjiang – where it has accused China of committing genocide against Uygurs. Wang called on the US to stop interfering in the affairs of Hong Kong, Xinjiang and Tibet, and not to support the pro-independence forces in Taiwan. “We hope the US can respect China’s core interests, national dignity and development, and stop smearing the Chinese Communist Party and China’s political system,” he said.

Washington should also remove restrictions on Chinese media, and exchange activities in education and the cultural sector – imposed under Trump – and resume educational exchanges, Wang said. He added that the differences between the two countries could be managed with more high-level dialogue and said the recent phone call between Chinese President Xi Jinping and Biden – during which Xi said confrontation between the two nations would be “a disaster” – could lay the ground for more discussions.

“In the past 70 years or so, we have never provoked a war and never occupied an inch of land in another country. We have advocated dialogue to bridge differences and negotiations to resolve disputes,” Wang said. Chinese diplomats have repeatedly called for more dialogue with Washington since Biden’s inauguration. The new administration has said it would review China policies and consult with US allies, and according to sources working-level contacts between Beijing and Washington have resumed since late January.

But critics said Washington’s tough approach towards Beijing was likely to continue, given previous comments by the slew of China specialists picked for key positions in the new US administration. Among them is Ely Ratner, tapped to lead the China task force as a special assistant to Defence Secretary Lloyd Austin. Ratner, a China hand who served as then vice-president Biden’s deputy national security adviser, last summer co-wrote a commentary calling for multiple US strategies on China, including blocking Beijing’s hi-tech authoritarianism and its dominance in the South China Sea.

Other appointments include deputy secretary of defence Kathleen Hicks, who described China as the “pacing challenge of our time”, and Melanie Hart, Biden’s pick for China policy coordinator serving the undersecretary of state for economic growth. She has asked for a comprehensive US strategy to counter Beijing’s industrial subsidies and Chinese telecoms giant Huawei Technologies.

Tang Xiaoyang, from the international relations department at Tsinghua University, said the US was unlikely to remove the tariffs on Chinese products for the time being, but he expected relations between the two countries would improve in the longer run. “It is not the case that China and the United States can cooperate only after they have met the conditions put forward by both sides. It is through increased cooperation that they can create the conditions for improving Sino-US relations,” Tang said.

“For the Biden administration, what is really needed is cooperation with China in other areas, such as climate change. Only when China is willing to cooperate with him in these areas will the relationship between the two nations improve. Once things improve, the United States will give more consideration to China’s demands to reduce sanctions and tariffs.”

This news was originally published at SCMP.