China envoy says US is blurring 'One China' policy on Taiwan

The warning about Taiwan come despite a flurry of high-level engagements between top officials from China and the US. PHOTO: REUTERS

WASHINGTON (BLOOMBERG) - China's envoy to the US said the Biden administration is undermining the "One China" policy through its support for Taiwan and is exacerbating tensions with its human rights claims over Beijing's treatment of Hong Kong and Xinjiang.

Speaking at the Aspen Security Forum in Colorado on Wednesday (July 20), Ambassador Qin Gang said Washington's increasingly close political and military ties with Taiwan and the human rights criticism are worsening ties between the world's two largest economies.

"The United States is hollowing out, blurring out the 'One China' policy," Mr Qin said at the annual gathering of diplomats, foreign policy experts and senior Biden administration officials at the Rocky Mountain ski town.

The warning come despite a flurry of high-level engagements between top officials from the two governments - including recent meetings between National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan, Secretary of State Antony Blinken, and their Chinese counterparts.

Those meetings are believed to have been laying the groundwork for a call between US President Joe Biden and China's Xi Jinping. Mr Biden said on Wednesday that "I think I'll be talking to President Xi within the next 10 days".

In a sign of Beijing's sensitivity over key hot spots in the US-China relationship, Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian said a plan reported by the Financial Times for House Speaker Nancy Pelosi to visit Taiwan next month would have a "grave impact" on the relationship. Pelosi's office has declined to comment on any international travel plans.

Asked about a possible Pelosi visit to Taiwan, Mr Biden told reporters on Wednesday that "the military thinks it's not a good idea right now but I don't know what the status of it is".

In Aspen, where several Biden administration officials and senior US military commanders spoke on panels about the threat of aggressive Chinese activities in Asia, Mr Qin warned that the US "is essentially uplifting official links with Taiwan, it's sending more officials to the island, sending sophisticated weapons and even saying the US would defend Taiwan militarily".

Biden administration officials say the US hasn't changed its policy toward Taiwan, though some former officials argue it's time to do so. Ex-Defence Secretary Mark Esper, on a visit to the self-governing island this week, said it was time to move away from the policy of "strategic ambiguity", in which generations of Washington policy makers have avoided a clear commitment to defend Taiwan from Chinese attack.

And Mr Biden stoked concern in Beijing after he said "yes" in May when asked if the US would act "militarily" to defend the island in event of attack. White House officials quickly walked back the remark, saying the president was simply promising US aid to help Taiwan defend itself in the event of hostilities.

'Not about democracy'

Mr Qin also hit back against criticism of China's political crackdown in Hong Kong following democracy protests in 2019 and allegations of genocide and forced labour camps in the far west Xinjiang region, home to Muslim Uighurs.

"Xinjiang and Hong Kong-related issues are not about democracy, human rights or religion, it's about anti-secession, it's about protecting people's lives, safeguarding China's national sovereignty," he said. "Xinjiang can never be allowed to be another Islamic State," he continued. "Hong Kong has to be decolonised and governed by people loving China, loving Hong Kong."

US officials, including Mr Blinken, have said they want to "responsibly manage" competition with China lest it veers into miscalculation or conflict. That's one area where there was overlap with Mr Qin, who began his remarks at Aspen saying no country wants to see a "Cold War" between the US and China.

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