Top American diplomat Stilwell pushes back on 'propaganda' that the US is trying to keep China down

Meanwhile, successive US administrations "accommodated the PRC's human rights abuses without significant protest," added Mr David Stilwell. PHOTO: REUTERS

WASHINGTON - The United States' top diplomat for East Asia in a major, and somewhat conciliatory, speech in Washington DC on Thursday (Dec 12) catalogued decades of US assistance to China, saying the record showed America was not trying to keep China down.

"It is altogether bogus that Beijing today claims that America's new competitive posture toward the PRC (People's Republic of China) betrays a desire to keep China down as a nation," Mr David Stilwell, assistant secretary of State at the Bureau of East Asian and Pacific Affairs, told an audience at the Centre for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS).

"On the contrary, our posture today is based on disappointment that Chinese Communist Party leaders decided to respond to our good faith with such aggressive and consistent bad faith," he said.

"I want our relations to be good, rich and mutually beneficial," he said. "Anyone who wants friendly US-China relations should expose and oppose propaganda designed to stimulate hostility. Pushing back on such misinformation is in the interest of constructive ties."

"Likewise, we want the record to be clear - confident that if it is, it will defuse, not foster, hostility," said Mr Stilwell.

In the wake of China's opening up some 40 years ago, American support for China's development was deliberate and took many forms, he said.

"We provided military and intelligence assistance. We made generous technology transfers. We ensured preferential trade and investment access. We sponsored and arranged for vast educational exchanges.

"We provided development financing and organised government-to-government capacity building. And more."

China's accession to the World Trade Organisation, paved by the US, had been "rocket fuel" for the PRC's ambitions, turning China into the world's manufacturing and export powerhouse.

Meanwhile, successive US administrations "accommodated the PRC's human rights abuses without significant protest," added Mr Stilwell.

"We mostly shrugged at the PRC's proliferation of nuclear and missile technology to Pakistan, Iran, North Korea and others. We largely overlooked the PRC's diversion of US-origin dual-use technology into its military.

"We offered little opposition to the PRC's theft of intellectual property, piracy of trademarked goods, and countless other unfair trade practices."

"Yet the PRC has acted in recent years with increasing hostility toward the United States, our interests, and our principles," he said. "This has prompted the American people and the current administration to reevaluate some of our policies."

"Beijing's hostile behaviour was not inevitable. It is not justified. It is a choice by Chinese leaders," he said.

"Going forward, the United States will continue to seek good relations with China, and we expect Beijing to reciprocate," he said. "We continue to believe that this is what the Chinese people want and seek.

"In the interests of truth and of friendly ties, Beijing should acknowledge the history of American helpfulness and support that I have outlined," he said.

"It was the result of the belief that China and the world are improved when China and America cooperate and strengthen the existing global order."

Join ST's Telegram channel and get the latest breaking news delivered to you.