BEIJING (AP) – Is the US out to sabotage China? Chinese leaders think so.
President Xi Jinping this week accused Washington of trying to isolate his country and hinder its development. This reflects the ruling Communist Party’s growing frustration that its quest for prosperity and global influence is threatened by US restrictions on access to technology, its support for Taiwan and other moves that Beijing views as hostile.
Xi, China’s most powerful leader in decades, tries to appear above problems and usually makes positive public comments. This made his complaint on Monday even more surprising. Xi said China’s US-led “containment and suppression” campaign has “brought unprecedented serious challenges.” He called on the public to “dare to fight”.
On Tuesday, Foreign Minister Chen Gang reiterated the warning, saying Washington faced potential “conflict and confrontation” if it failed to change course.
“The secretary of state speaks on behalf of a widely held view that the United States comes after China and they have to fend for themselves,” said John Delory, an international relations specialist at Yonsei University in Seoul.
China is not the only government chafing at Washington’s dominance of global strategic and economic affairs. But Chinese leaders see the United States making extra efforts to thwart Beijing as a challenge to regional and possibly global leadership.
The ruling party wants to restore China’s historic role as a political and cultural leader, raise incomes by turning the country into an inventor of technology, and unify what it considers the motherland of China by taking control of Taiwan, a democratic, self-governing island as Beijing has done. claims as part of its territory.
Beijing views these targets as positive, but US officials view them as threats. They say China’s development plans are based at least in part on stealing or pressuring foreign companies to hand over technology. Some warn that Chinese competition could erode US industrial dominance and income.
Washington has backed away from Beijing’s plans by putting Chinese companies, including the world’s first global technology brand, Huawei, on a blacklist that limits access to processor chips and other technology. This crippled the Huawei smartphone brand, which was once one of the largest brands in the world. US officials are pressing European allies and others to avoid Huawei equipment when updating phone networks.
Washington cites security concerns, but Beijing says this is an excuse to hurt its fledgling rivals.
The two governments enjoy the world’s largest trading relationship and share common interests in combating climate change and other problems. But relations are strained over Taiwan, Beijing’s treatment of Hong Kong and its mostly Muslim ethnic minorities, and its refusal to criticize or isolate Russia over its invasion of Ukraine.
Shi Yinhong, an international relations specialist at Renmin University in Beijing, said the official Chinese view had soured after an uptick when Xi met US President Joe Biden in November in Indonesia. He noted that in the five months since then, Washington has approved more arms sales to Taiwan, criticized Beijing’s stance on Ukraine and put more Chinese companies on export control lists, all of which China regards as hostile.
Xi and Chen spoke “in a dramatic way” this week, but “the core of what they said is China’s long-term stance,” Xi said. The leadership believes that “the United States has implemented almost everywhere, radical and desperate containment of China in all respects, especially in the strategic and military spheres.”
“The risk of a military conflict between China and the United States is getting wider,” Xi said.
State Department spokesman Ned Price said Washington wanted to “coexist responsibly” within the global trade and political system and denied that the US government wanted to suppress China.
This is not about containing China. It is not about China’s oppression. “This is not about blocking China,” Price said in Washington. “We want to have fair, constructive competition” and “Don’t veer into conflict.”
The United States formed a strategic group, the Quad, with Japan, Australia, and India in response to concerns about China and its claims to vast swathes of seas crowded with shipping lanes. They insist that the group is not focused on any one country, but that its official statements revolve around territorial claims and other issues over which they have disagreements with Beijing.
The latest change in tone follows a scathing exchange about a Chinese airship that was shot down after passing over North America. Electronic devices and other equipment are checked by the FBI.
Chen, the foreign minister, “is trying to position China as a global force of moderation and peace” in front of foreign audiences and says, “It’s the Americans who are overproportionate,” Delory said.
Xi’s government was particularly angered by offers of support by US lawmakers and other Westerners for Taiwan, which seceded from China in 1949 after a civil war.
Taiwan was never part of the People’s Republic of China, but the Communist Party says the island of 22 million people should unite with the mainland, by force if necessary.
Washington is bound by federal law to see that Taiwan has the weapons to defend itself and has sold it fighter jets and missiles. Chinese leaders complain that it emboldens Taiwanese politicians who may want to resist unification and possibly a formal declaration of independence, a move Beijing says would lead to war.
Premier Li Keqiang, who is set to step down as China’s second leader this month, on Sunday called for “peaceful reunification”. But Xi’s government has also stepped up its efforts to intimidate the island by flying fighter jets and firing missiles into the nearby sea.
Drew Thompson, a fellow at the Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy at the National University of Singapore, said the latest downturn is “a testament to the real deterioration” of US-China relations, which have “never had a lot of trust.”
Thompson said that Chinese leaders “consider any kind of discussion on strategic issues sensitive and off limits,” which “increases the risk of miscalculation.”
He said, “They believe that the United States is a dominant country that seeks to undermine the Communist Party and its legitimacy, and they have ample evidence of this.” “But if perceptions change and interests balance, they can easily believe that the United States is a partner in achieving the party’s goals.”
Associated Press researcher Yu Ping contributed to this report.
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