Another Bad Week For China-US Relations

THOSE WHO BELIEVED that the advent of the Biden administration would bring a fresh start to China-US relations — or at least a truce after the Trump-era hostility — are being proved wrong. 

This week alone, the United States has:

  • issued an advisory to investors about the risks of doing business in Hong Kong, saying that Beijing’s exertion of greater control over the financial hub threatens the rule of law and endangers employees and data; 
  • updated last year’s advisory warning businesses and individuals that if they do not exit Xinjiang-related supply chains, joint ventures and investments, they could run a high risk of violating US law; and
  • landed a military transport plane in Taiwan to deliver a package for Sandra Oudkirk, the new director of the American Institute in Taiwan (AIT), which acts as the de facto US embassy on the island.

In addition, the US Senate passed a bill that would extend the US ban on imports from Xinjiang; US Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen said Washington does not intend to revive the bilateral high-level Strategic and Economic Dialogue abandoned by former US President Donald Trump; and back-channel discussions about US Deputy Secretary of State Wendy Sherman making a China stop on her trip to Japan, South Korea and Mongolia next week came to nought for whatever reason.

Last Friday, the Biden administration added 14 Chinese firms and other entities to the US’ Entity List over alleged human rights abuses and surveillance in Xinjiang. 

All this has brought the expected responses about interference in China’s internal affairs and Beijing promising firm responses to Washington’s actons . However, there was a darker warning about China reserving the right to shoot down any foreign intruder into Chinese airspace.

Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian also used one of the ministry’s regular news briefing for the foreign press to crack back at Washington: 

The US should earnestly reflect on its own poor human rights record, pay more attention to its problems at home, and take concrete measures to deliver benefits to its people. It should stop wasting time and energy in smearing and attacking China by exploiting the issue of forced labour, stop moving forward with the relevant bill and stop manipulating the issue out of [its] political agenda.

President Xi Jinping and Biden participated in a virtual call among APEC members today, but the two leaders have yet to meet in person since Biden assumed the presidency.

There will be an opportunity for that at the G20 meeting in Rome in October. Yet officials of both countries will be busy calibrating how much time the two leaders will spend together then, given the present deteriorating climate.

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