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China: FM Wang says Washington trying to 'suppress' Beijing

March 7, 2024

China's Foreign Minister Wang Yi has criticized the US and the crisis in Gaza during the National People's Congress. At the same time, he praised Russia amid its invasion of Ukraine.

China's Foreign Minister Wang Yi at the Second Session of the 14th National People’s Congress
Foreign Minister Wang Yi spoke on the sidelines of the annual National People's CongressImage: Wang Zhao/AFP

China's Foreign Minister Wang Yi gave a wide-ranging address on Beijing's foreign policy stances on Thursday, on the sidelines of the annual National People's Congress.

He hit out at the US, amid tensions between the world's two biggest economies, while heaping praise on Russia. His tone with the European Union was more conciliatory, but some of his harshest words were saved for Israel's ongoing operations in Gaza, where he called for an "immediate cease-fire."

Wang questions US' 'credibility as major power'

"It has to be pointed out that the US side's erroneous perception of China continues, and the promises it has made have not really been fulfilled," Wang said at the National People's Congress, adding that ties between the two countries could carry on only if both sides acknowledge and respect their differences.

"The methods of suppressing China are constantly being renewed, and the list of unilateral sanctions is constantly being extended," he added.

Relations between Washington and Beijing have been on the rocks for a while. The sources of contention range from US support for Taiwan — a self-governing island that China hopes to one day gain control of; the threat of conflict in the South China Sea — especially with US ally the Philippines; and tensions over China's growing economic dominance.

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A meeting between Chinese President Xi Jinping and US President Joe Biden in San Francisco in November 2023 alleviated some of the tensions, but Beijing has accused Washington of not upholding its promises.

"If the US always says one thing and does another, where is its credibility as a major power? If the US gets nervous and anxious
when it hears the word 'China,' where is its confidence as a major power?" Wang said. "If the US is obsessed with suppressing China, it
will eventually harm itself."

Supporters of a free Taiwan will be 'liquidated by history'

The 70-year-old foreign minister also stressed: "We will never allow Taiwan to be separated from the motherland."

He described the recent elections — which were won by the pro-independence candidate — as "just local elections in one part of China. The result does not change even in the slightest terms the basic fact that Taiwan is part of China," adding that those who support Taiwan's independence will "get burned for playing with fire and taste the bitter fruit of their own doing."

The US is legally obliged to support Taiwan's defense capabilities in accordance with the 1979 Taiwan Relations Act. Increasing pressure from the Chinese Navy and Air Force in the Taiwan Strait has sparked fears of a regional conflict that could turn global.

Beijing upped its rhetoric against Taiwan independence at the beginning of its annual parliamentary meeting. On Thursday, Wang continued in this vane, saying that "anyone on the island of Taiwan who tries to go for Taiwan independence will inevitably be liquidated by history."

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Washington also has a mutual defense treaty with the Philippines — its former colony — which has also come into conflict with China over control of the South China Sea. Manila accused Chinese coast guard boats of causing two collisions with Philippine ships on Tuesday.

"We will legitimately defend our rights in accordance with the law," Wang said in response to the accusations, warning that "we do not allow our goodwill to be abused."

Wang calls Gaza crisis a 'disgrace for civilization'

China has also taken opposing stances to the US on Russia's war in Ukraine and Israeli operations in Gaza. Wang on Thursday repeated that Beijing has a "fair stance" on the conflict in Ukraine, while nurturing positive relations with Moscow.

At the same time, he condemned the humanitarian crisis in Gaza as "a tragedy for humankind and a disgrace for civilization," and repeated calls for an "immediate cease-fire."

"The international community must act urgently, making an immediate ceasefire and the cessation of hostilities an overriding priority, and ensuring humanitarian relief an urgent moral responsibility," he said.

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He also reiterated China's call for the Palestinian territories to be granted full membership in the United Nations, as well as for a road map leading to a two-state solution.

"We support Palestine becoming a full member of the United Nations and call on individual members of the Security Council not to set obstacles for this anymore," he said.

While Wang also called for peace talks in Ukraine, these were much more restrained, warning that "without the start of peace talks, misunderstandings and misjudgments will build up, leading to a greater crisis."

Wang calls for one-track policy from EU

China's ties with Russia — which Wang described as a "new paradigm for great power relations" — have also created tensions with the European Union which, for the most part, has strongly opposed Russia's war in Ukraine.

But China and the EU are also major trading partners. Wang criticized the bloc's varying depictions of China as a partner, a competitor, and an institutional rival, describing Brussel's policy as "a car driving towards an intersection, only to find the red, green and yellow lights on at the same time."

The EU has launched a probe into the impact that Chinese subsidies for electric vehicle makers have on Europe's own car producers. 

"Facts have proven that this triple positioning is not factual or feasible, but it has brought unnecessary interference and obstacles to the development of China-EU relations," Wang said in his address.

ab,tg/kb (AFP, AP, dpa, Reuters)