Senior Chinese diplomat Wang Yi says US should replace sanctions with dialogue

China's State Councillor and Foreign Minister Wang Yi urged the United States to stop "overstretching the notion of national security". PHOTO: REUTERS

BEIJING (REUTERS, BLOOMBERG) - The US should choose dialogue and consultation with China instead of pursuing "unacceptable"unilateral sanctions against Chinese companies, China's State Councillor and Foreign Minister Wang Yi said on Friday.

He urged the United States to stop "overstretching the notion of national security" and "arbitrary suppression of Chinese companies".

"We need to replace sanctions with dialogue and consultation," he said in a special address to the Asia Society that focused mainly on the state of Sino-US relations.

Washington confirmed on Friday it would add dozens of Chinese companies, including the country's top chipmaker, SMIC , to a trade blacklist, a move seen as the latest in President Donald Trump's efforts to cement his tough-on-China legacy.

Beijing has taken note of the four policy priorities of US President-elect Joe Biden, who is set to take office on Jan 20, Mr Wang added, and believes at least three of them - Covid-19 response, economic recovery and climate change - provide room for cooperation between the two countries.

"We hope that we will expand cooperation and manage differences through dialogue," Mr Wang said. "It is important that United States policies towards China return to objectivity and sustainability as soon as possible."

His remarks were the most detailed commentary on US-China relations from a Chinese government official since Mr Joe Biden's victory in the Nov 3 presidential election. They are also the latest in a string of comments from top Chinese diplomats that hint at a desire to reset relations between the world's two largest economies as Mr Biden prepares to take office on Jan 20.

Mr Wang set out a framework for improving ties, calling on US politicians to stop criticising China's ruling Communist Party and respect the country's interests in Xinjiang and Tibet regions, where Beijing's policies have drawn widespread international criticism.

He also pointed to climate change, economic recovery and the coronavirus pandemic response as potential areas for cooperation.

His comments come amid a flood of anti-China measures from the Trump administration, including restricting visas for members of the Chinese Communist Party and sanctioning officials over Beijing's sweeping crackdown in Hong Kong.

Addressing US business leaders last week, Mr Wang called for the two sides to "go back to the right track".

In November, former vice-foreign minister Fu Ying penned an op-ed calling for "cooperative competition" between the powers.

Mr Wang offered a dark assessment of the state of the US-China relationship at the end of the Trump administration, which he said had "spiralled down to the lowest level since the establishment of diplomatic ties" more than four decades earlier.

"The go-it-alone approach and walking away from international commitments have fractured and crippled the international system," he said.

He argued that many US politicians have "strategic miscalculations about China" and that there are "vast common interests" between the two countries. "China is not a threat to the United States and will not be a threat to the United States," he said.

He said US efforts to "remodel or subvert China" would be "mission impossible" and repeated China's position that its policies in Tibet and Xinjiang are "internal affairs".

Mr Kevin Rudd, Australia's former prime minister and current president of the Asia Society Policy Institute, introduced Mr Wang and said that US-China ties were at their lowest point in half a century. He added that confrontation between the two countries had ensnared US allies such as Japan, South Korea and Australia, "which now finds itself very much in the firing line of tensions in the bilateral relationship".

Relations between Beijing and Canberra have been strained since 2018, when Australia barred Huawei Technologies from building its 5G network there. They deteriorated further this year after Australia called for an international inquiry into the origins of the coronavirus. China then imposed a raft of trade measures blocking billions of dollars worth of Australian commodities.

Mr Rudd picked up on Mr Wang's comments on the importance of face-to-face dialogue to put in a pitch for Australia, saying he hoped the two governments would have such contact soon.

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