U.S. ‘obsessed’ with suppressing China

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BEIJING — China’s foreign minister said Thursday that the United States was “obsessed” with suppressing China, potentially jeopardizing efforts to strengthen relations between the world’s two biggest economies.

Relations fell to their lowest point in decades last year amid disputes over tech, trade, human rights, the status of Taiwan, an alleged Chinese spy balloon shot down over the U.S., and Beijing’s position on wars in Ukraine and the Middle East.

Foreign Minister Wang Yi said there had been “some improvements” in U.S.-China relations since Presidents Joe Biden and Xi Jinping held a summit in California in November, their first encounter in a year. But the U.S. still has misperceptions about China and is seeking to restrict its development, Wang said, with the list of unilateral sanctions on Chinese tech and other companies “reaching bewildering levels of unfathomable absurdity.”

“If the United States says one thing and does another, where is its credibility as a major country?” he said at a wide-ranging news conference in Beijing on the sidelines of the annual meeting of China’s rubber-stamp legislature. “If it gets jittery every time it hears the word ‘China,’ where is its confidence as a major country?”

“The challenges the U.S. faces lie within itself, not in China,” Wang continued, noting that this year is the 45th anniversary of the establishment of formal U.S.-China relations. “If the United States is obsessed with suppressing China, it will eventually harm itself.”

Wang, 70, a former foreign minister who also holds a separate title as China’s top diplomat, returned to the foreign minister role last year after his successor, Qin Gang, was removed from his post without explanation about six months into the job. Qin has not been seen in public since last June.

The meeting of the National People’s Congress in Beijing this week had been seen as a potential opportunity to announce a new foreign minister, though that now appears unlikely.

On the Israel-Hamas war, Wang called for an immediate cease-fire, the release of all detainees and the provision of humanitarian aid, saying the “long-standing occupation of Palestinian territories cannot be ignored.”

“Only by delivering justice to the Palestinian people and fully implementing a two-state solution can we break the vicious cycle of the Israel-Palestine conflict,” he said.

Wang also addressed tensions in the South China Sea, a strategic shipping route that Beijing claims virtually in its entirety, giving rise to territorial disputes with the Philippines, Vietnam and other neighbors in Southeast Asia.

This week, Philippine officials accused Chinese ships of blocking a resupply mission for soldiers stationed at the Second Thomas Shoal, a submerged reef that is claimed by China, the Philippines and others. Video provided by the Philippine Coast Guard showed a Chinese vessel using water cannon against the supply boat, shattering the windshield.

A Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson said Wednesday that the Philippines had violated Chinese territorial sovereignty and that China’s operations were “professional, restrained, justified and lawful.”

“In the face of unwarranted provocation, we will respond with prompt and legitimate countermeasures,” Wang said Thursday.

On Taiwan, a self-ruling democracy that Beijing claims as its territory, Wang said that elections held on the island in January “are just local elections in one part of China.”

“The result does not change even in the slightest terms the basic fact that Taiwan is part of China,” he said.

Taiwan rejects Beijing’s sovereignty claims, saying only the island’s 23 million people can decide its future. The winner of the presidential election, Vice President Lai Ching-te, favors maintaining the status quo but is regarded by Beijing as a separatist and “troublemaker.”

Wang said that while China will continue to strive for “peaceful reunification” with Taiwan, Beijing’s bottom line is “quite clear: We will never allow Taiwan to be separated from the Chinese motherland.”

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