U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken speaks during a visit by U.S. President Joe Biden to the U.S. Department of State in Washington on February 4, 2021.
Tom Brenner | Reuters
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken urged China to condemn the military coup in Myanmar and warned Beijing that Washington would work with its allies to hold the People’s Republic accountable for its efforts to threaten international stability, particularly on the Taiwan Strait.
Blinken spoke to his Foreign Secretary Yang Jiechi late Friday in the first conversation between senior US and Chinese officials since President Joe Biden took office. The top US diplomat emphasized human rights in the appeal, while Yang urged Washington to respect China’s sovereignty.
“Minister Blinken stressed that the United States would continue to stand up for human rights and democratic values, including in Xinjiang, Tibet and Hong Kong, and urged China to join the international community in condemning the military coup in Burma,” said Ned, spokesman for the White House Price said in a statement.
The controversial call between top diplomats in Washington and Beijing shows that relations between the world’s two largest economies are unlikely to improve under the Biden administration. Yang urged the US not to interfere in China’s internal affairs in Hong Kong, Xinjiang and Tibet. Yang warned Blinken that any attempt to slander China would be unsuccessful.
Tensions between the US and China reached a boiling point under the Trump administration. Although President Joe Biden is reviewing a number of Trump-era foreign policy decisions, it is unlikely to reverse most of the previous administration’s policy towards China. Biden has already announced that he will not immediately remove the hundreds of billions of dollars in tariffs that Trump has imposed on Chinese exports as the new administration also tries to keep trade strict.
The day before Biden was inaugurated, the Trump administration described the repression of Uighur Muslims in western China’s Xinjiang province as “genocide and crimes against humanity”. As soon as Trump stepped down, Beijing imposed sanctions on former administrative officials, including former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and trade advisor Peter Navarro.
The Biden administration will maintain the genocidal designation, Biden’s candidate for UN Ambassador Linda Thomas-Greenfield said during her confirmation hearing. Biden had condemned China’s actions in Xinjiang as genocide during its presidential campaign.
The White House is already facing its first major international hotspot with China after the Myanmar military toppled and arrested the country’s civilian leadership earlier this month.
The US has warned that if it does not release the imprisoned civilian leadership and support the country’s democratic transition, it will take action against those responsible for the coup. For its part, China has avoided condemning the coup and has instead called for a solution to the crisis in accordance with the country’s constitution.
Tensions are also mounting in Taiwan. Beijing claims sovereignty over Taiwan, which is self-governing under the umbrella of US security guarantees. Days after Biden’s inauguration, China sent fighter jets across the strait and was convicted by Washington. On Thursday, a US Navy warship sailed through the strait for the first time since Biden took office.
“The Secretary reaffirmed that the United States will work with its allies and partners to defend our common values and interests and hold the PRC accountable for its efforts to threaten and undermine stability in the Indo-Pacific, including the Taiwan Strait pull the rules-based international system, “State Department spokesman Price said of Blinken’s Friday call.
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