China slams ‘unfathomable absurdities’ of US trade controls as it hails Russia ties | CNN

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Beijing
CNN
 — 

China’s top diplomat hit out at Washington’s “bewildering” trade policy during a news conference Thursday on the sidelines of a political gathering in Beijing, where Chinese leaders have been championing high-tech development in the face of mounting curbs from Washington.

Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi accused the US of “devising various tactics to suppress China” and said Washington’s “lengthening” unilateral sanctions list had reached “bewildering levels of unfathomable absurdity.”

“If it gets jittery whenever it hears the word China, where is its confidence as a major country?” Wang said in a response to a question about trade with the US and technological restrictions.

“If it only wants itself to prosper, but denies other countries legitimate development, where is international fairness? If it persistently monopolizes the high end of the value chain and keeps China at the low end, where is fairness and competition?”

Wang made the comments during an annual Foreign Minister’s briefing held during each “two sessions” gathering of China’s rubber stamp legislature and its top political advisory body. Though highly choreographed, the more than hour-long engagement is a key opportunity for China’s top diplomat to express the country’s foreign policy vision directly to reporters from media around the world.

In a stark contrast to his comments on the US, Wang praised China’s burgeoning relationship and record trade with Russia – highlighting this near the top of his press conference when a Russian state media reporter was the first question taken from a foreign reporter.

Wang’s comments on the US come as Washington continues its drive to narrow the kinds of high-end technology that can be accessed by China. In October, the White House further reduced the types of semiconductors that US companies can sell in China as it aims to ensure American tech won’t be used to bolster the Chinese military.

The US has also enacted sanctions against Chinese actors over a host of issues in recent years, including allegations of human rights abuses in Xinjiang, the illicit fentanyl trade and providing support for Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

Wang spoke during what has been a period of relative stability between the China and the US. Adopting a softer tone at times, Wang noted that there had been “some improvements” in the US-China relationship since a summit between US President Joe Biden and Chinese leader Xi Jinping in San Francisco last November.

He called on Washington to work with Beijing “to bring the relationship back on the track of stable, sound and sustainable development.”

What has been on the agenda at the meetings this week is China’s drive to bolster its “self-reliance and strength in science and technology,” with Beijing sending a message that it will boost its self-reliance rather than sit back and wait for tech frictions with the US to improve.

The government announced plans to increase its annual budget for science and technology by 10% to an unprecedented 370.8 billion yuan ($51.6 billion) — the biggest jump since 2019 after years of minimal growth.

China sets ambitious economic growth target for 2024

Wang also praised robust trade ties between China and Russia, which have deepened following the Kremlin’s invasion of Ukraine and Moscow’s subsequent economic isolation on the global stage.

Bilateral trade between China and Russia hit a historic $240 billion last year, surpassing a target of $200 billion set by Xi and Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin in 2019 ahead of schedule.

“Russian natural gas is fueling numerous Chinese households and Chinese-made automobiles are running on Russian roads,” Wang said. “All this shows the strong resilience and broad prospects of China-Russia mutually beneficial cooperation.”

Beijing’s ties to Moscow have sparked deep suspicion in the West, including over concerns about China’s position as the Kremlin’s key economic lifeline. While China claims neutrality in the Ukraine conflict it has appeared unwilling to use its significant economic leverage to curb Russia’s aggression and has not condemned the invasion.

During the briefing, Wang repeated China’s call for peace talks to avoid an “unthinkable” escalation and deterioration of the conflict. He also reiterated past rhetoric framing China’s relationship with Russia as a responsible one.

Maintaining and growing the China-Russia relationship is a “strategic choice” by the two sides based on their fundamental interests and is also “what we must do to keep pace with the trend of the world,” Wang said.

“China and Russia have forged a new paradigm of major country relations that differs entirely from the obsolete Cold War approach on the basis of non-alliance, non-confrontation and not targeting any third party,” he added.

The diplomat also addressed simmering tensions in the disputed South China Sea where non-lethal but increasingly tense clashes between Chinese and Philippine vessels in recent months have raised concerns about the risk of conflict, which could then embroil the United States, a Philippine mutual defense ally.

Those flared again Tuesday when the Philippines Coast Guard accused Chinese vessels of executing “dangerous maneuvers” to impede and obstruct a resupply mission in contested waters in the South China Sea.

CNN reporters were on board one of the Philippine Coast Guard vessels and witnessed how a much larger force of Chinese coast guard ships and boats from its shadowy “maritime militia” penned in a smaller convoy of Philippine vessels resupplying a remote military outpost.

Despite an international tribunal rejecting China’s claim of historic rights to the bulk of the sea, it has continued to militarize islands and maintains a large presence of coast guard and fishing vessels to enforce its claims.

“In the face of deliberate infringement, we will take justified actions to defend our rights in accordance with the law. In the face of unwarranted provocation, we will respond with prompt and legitimate countermeasures,” Wang said Thursday.

“We also urge certain countries outside the region, not to make provocations, excite or stir up troubles,” he said, in an apparent jab at the US presence in the region.

The foreign minister’s comments on Taiwan also caught the notice of those closely watching for any evolution of Chinese policy on Taiwan during the “two sessions” meeting.

China’s ruling Communist Party claims the self-governing democracy as its territory, despite never having controlled it. It has not ruled out the use of force to retake the island, which maintains close unofficial ties with the US.

Some observers had noted that a line in a report delivered by Premier Li Qiang on Tuesday proclaimed that China would advance the cause of “China’s reunification” instead of saying “peaceful reunification” as it has been written at times in the past.

On Thursday, when responding to a question about Taiwan’s recent election of Lai Ching-te, whose party views Taiwan as a de facto sovereign nation under threat from China, Wang specifically called for the support of “peaceful reunification.”

He also reiterated staid language that “whoever in the world” supports Taiwan independence will get “burned for playing with fire.”

This story has been updated.

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