Tianjin talks off to a tense show of blame

World | AFP and Bloomberg 27 Jul 2021

Beijing urged Washington to stop "demonizing" China and issued a long list of demands to repair relations as rancor marked the start of talks with the highest-level US envoy to visit under President Joe Biden's administration.

Deputy Secretary of State Wendy Sherman's visit to the northern city of Tianjin is the first major meeting between the two countries since March discussions in Anchorage collapsed into mudslinging.

The preamble to Sherman's trip said she aims to seek "guardrails" as ties deteriorate on a range of issues from cybersecurity and tech supremacy to human rights in Hong Kong and Xinjiang.

But the tone was set early in the day in statements released by Beijing.

"The hope may be that by demonizing China, the US could somehow blame China for its own structural problems," Vice Foreign Minister Xie Feng told Sherman in a readout issued by the ministry.

"We urge the United States to change its highly misguided mindset and dangerous policy," the statement said, adding Washington views China as an "imagined enemy."

Xie said Chinese people view the United States' "adversarial rhetoric as a thinly veiled attempt to contain and suppress China."

Sherman also met with Foreign Minister Wang Yi. The State Department said she held "frank and open" talks with Wang, where she raised human rights concerns and the cases of Americans and Canadians detained in China.

Chinese diplomats also presented Sherman with two lists of demands, according to Xinhua News Agency.

One was "US wrongdoings that must stop" and the other was a list of "key individual cases that China has concerns with."

Among the demands were revoking sanctions on Chinese officials and government departments, lifting visa restrictions on Chinese students and stopping the "suppression" of Chinese firms, foreign ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian later told reporters.

US efforts to extradite Huawei Technologies chief financial officer Meng Wanzhou from Canada should also end and calls for a renewed probe into the origins of the coronavirus must stop, Zhao added in a sweeping warning to "stop stepping on red lines."

Xie's remarks show that the talks in Tianjin "were indeed very tough" and "looked like a continuation of the Anchorage meeting," said Zhu Feng, a professor of international relations at Nanjing University.

"His comments were also aimed at giving the Chinese public confidence that the government will not succumb in the face of heightened pressure from the US side."

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