This article was originally published by Radio Free Asia and is reprinted with permission.
China on Thursday called for improved ties with the United States as it congratulated President Joe Biden on his inauguration and welcomed his decision to rejoin the World Health Organization (WHO).
But there were signs that Washington would likely continue the Trump administration’s policy of ending engagement with the ruling Chinese Communist Party (CCP) in the hope of enabling political change.
“With cooperation from both sides, the better angels in China-US relations will beat the evil forces,” foreign ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying told a regular news briefing in Beijing, calling for “unity” in bilateral ties in a reference to Biden’s inauguration speech.
But Washington hit out at sanctions on U.S. officials imposed by Beijing in the last days of the Trump administration, calling them “unproductive and cynical.”
As Biden was sworn in, Beijing announced visa bans targeting outgoing Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, 27 other top officials and their families, accusing them of interference in its internal affairs.
Former Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar, former White House trade adviser Peter Navarro, former National Security Advisor Robert O’Brien, former U.N. ambassador Kelly Craft, and recently resigned Deputy National Security Adviser Matt Pottinger were among those sanctioned, as were former national security adviser John Bolton and former White House chief strategist Steve Bannon.
“Imposing these sanctions on Inauguration Day is seemingly an attempt to play to partisan divides,” Biden’s National Security Council spokeswoman Emily Horne said in a statement.
“Americans of both parties should criticize this unproductive and cynical move. President Biden looks forward to working with leaders in both parties to position America to out-compete China,” Horne said.
Meanwhile, Biden’s Secretary of State nominee Antony Blinken said he agreed with Pompeo’s assessment that the mass incarceration of at least 1.5 million Uyghurs and other Turkic Muslims in “re-education” camps in Xinjiang and policies aimed at eradicating Uyghur culture amounted to genocide.
Chinese state media reporting on Biden’s inauguration remained low-key, with the most commentary allocated to the tabloid Global Times newspaper in English, which has close ties to CCP mouthpiece the People’s Daily.
“In the Global Times’ view, [Biden] … is much more rational than his predecessor Donald Trump,” the paper said in an editorial. “China can be a partner with the U.S. in fighting COVID-19, resolving climate problems and promoting growth.”
“If both the U.S. and China focus on doing their own things well and stop fighting against each other, the … world will also be much more harmonious,” it said.
But it hit out at the U.S. for inviting Hsiao Bi-khim, representing the democratic island of Taiwan, to the inauguration ceremony, noting Blinken’s endorsement of Trump’s China policy on Tuesday.
It blamed the Trump administration for worsening bilateral ties.
“During the past four years, China-U.S. relations have deteriorated,” it said. “All conflicts have been provoked by Washington.”
Wu Qiang, a former politics lecturer at Beijing’s Tsinghua University, said he is expecting a mixture of competition and cooperation in Biden’s China policy.
“They will likely inherit Trump’s tendency towards adversarial competition,” Wu said. But he said he expected “multiple channels of dialogue” nonethless.
“This will be a confrontational form of cooperation, a combination of confrontation and cooperation,” he said.
“I believe that China will have to accept these so-called attempts at dialogue from the U.S., because that has been lacking in Sino-U.S. relations,” he said. “Beijing will likely hand out some kind of olive branch in a bid to restart dialogue.”
Chinese scholar Ma Guoqiang said Beijing is definitely hoping for a better relationship with Washington under Biden.
“They definitely want to see it developing in the direction of detente, because it will be more conducive to the CCP’s goals for future development,” Ma said.
Twitter bans Chinese Embassy
Beijing’s call for a better relationship came as the social networking site Twitter blocked the official account of the Chinese Embassy in Washington after it tweeted in support of Beijing’s policies in Xinjiang.
Twitter locked the account over a Jan. 7 tweet referring to Uyghur women as “baby-making machines” prior to government intervention.
“We have taken action on this Tweet for violating our policy against dehumanization,” Twitter said in a statement reported by Bloomberg.
Twitter prohibits dehumanization of a group of people based on their “religion, caste, age, disability, serious disease, national origin, race, or ethnicity.”