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US admits China poses the most significant challenge amid Beijing’s threat

China has asked US to stop interference in the affairs of Hong Kong, Tibet and Xinjiang

A top Chinese Communist Party (CCP) Politburo Member has warned the new Joe Biden administration at the White House not to cross the "red line" and stop interference in the affairs of Hong Kong, Tibet and Xinjiang.

In his first speech to an American audience since the Biden administration took office, Yang Jiechi, Director of the Office of the Central Committee for Foreign Affairs of the Politburo of the 19th CPC Central Committee, accused the previous Donald Trump administration of adopting "misguided policies against China" and  plunging the relationship into its most difficult period since the establishment of diplomatic ties between both the nations.

A former foreign minister, Yang told an online gathering of the New York-based National Committee on United States-China Relations that China-US relations now stand at a key moment and both sides need to respect each other's histories, cultures and traditions, respect each other's core interests and major concerns, and respect each other's choices of political system and development path.

He assured that China has no intention to challenge or replace the US position in the world, or to carve out a sphere of influence. Likewise, he said, China expects the United States to honor its commitment under the three Sino-US Joint Communiques, strictly abide by the One China principle, and respect China's position and concerns on the Taiwan question.

"The United States should stop interference in the affairs of Hong Kong, Tibet and Xinjiang, which all matter to China's sovereignty and territorial integrity, and stop attempts to hold back China's development by meddling in China's internal affairs. History and reality have shown time and again that these issues concern China's core interests, national dignity, as well as the sentiments of its 1.4 billion people," Yang said in his address Monday.

"They constitute a redline that must not be crossed. Any trespassing would end up undermining China-US relations and the United States' own interests. We in China hope that the US side will fully understand the sensitivity of these issues and handle them with prudence, so as to avoid disruption or damage to mutual trust and cooperation," he added.

Just before signing off last month, the Trump administration had on January 19 declared that China, under the direction and control of the CCP government, has committed genocide against the predominantly Muslim Uyghurs and other ethnic and religious minority groups in Xinjiang. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo had said that he believed that this genocide is ongoing, and that the world is witnessing the systematic attempt to destroy Uyghurs by the Chinese party-state.

"The governing authorities of the second most economically, militarily, and politically powerful country on earth have made clear that they are engaged in the forced assimilation and eventual erasure of a vulnerable ethnic and religious minority group, even as they simultaneously assert their country as a global leader and attempt to remold the international system in their image," asserted Pompeo.

The Biden administration has so far made it clear that it is in no mood to counter Trump's China policy.

While Pompeo's successor at State, Antony Blinken, told the Senate confirmation hearing that he agreed with the genocide assessment – "That would be my judgment as well," he had said – history was made immediately after when Taiwan was represented in an official capacity at the US presidential inauguration for the first time since 1979.

China Myanmar United States

Myanmar President U Win Myint (R) with Yang Jiechi, a member of the Political Bureau of the Communist Party of China (CPC) Central Committee and director of the Office of the Foreign Affairs Commission of the CPC Central Committee, in Nay Pyi Taw, Myanmar, last September (Xinhua/Zhang Dongqiang)

Yang in his speech yesterday said that some in the United States are still sticking to the Cold War thinking and perceived China as a threat. He said that their rhetoric and actions have interfered in China's internal affairs, undermined China's interests, and disrupted exchanges and mutually beneficial cooperation between the two sides.

Urging United States to rise above the "outdated mentality of zero-sum, major-power rivalry" and work with China to keep the relationship on the right track, he said that China hopes that the new administration will remove the stumbling blocks to people-to-people exchanges, like "harassing Chinese students, restricting Chinese media outlets, shutting down Confucius Institutes and suppressing Chinese companies."

The CCP Politburo Member said it was a strategic misjudgment by some in the United States to view China as a major strategic competitor, even an adversary.

"There have also been attempts to seek "decoupling" and a so-called "new Cold War". Such moves, going against the trend of the times, have seriously damaged China-US relations as well as the fundamental interests of the two peoples," he emphasized.

Yang's hawkish comments would have done more harm than good though. 

In an interview to MSNBC Monday, Blinken admitted that there was no doubt that China poses the most significant challenge to US than any other country.

"We've seen China act egregiously to undermine the very commitments it made during the handover of Hong Kong to – from Britain.  And we see people who are, again, in Hong Kong standing up for their own rights, the rights that they felt were guaranteed to them. And if they are being – if they're the victims of repression from Chinese authorities, we should do something to give them haven," the new US Secretary of State made it clear.

He further ruffled feathers by asking Beijing to be more transparent in providing and sharing information on Covid-19 pandemic by giving access to international experts and inspectors.

"There is no doubt that, especially when Covid-19 first hit but even today, China is falling far short of the mark when it comes to providing the information necessary to the international community, making sure that experts have access to China.  All of the – that lack of transparency, that lack of being forthcoming, is a profound problem and it's one that continues," said Blinken.