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China tells U.S. to stop ‘salami tactics’; warns of ‘red line’

Chinese State Councilor and Foreign Minister Wang Yi at the 13th National People's Congress on May 24, 2020 in Beijing, capital of China. (Chen Yehua/Xinhua/Zuma Press/TNS)
January 03, 2023

China cautioned the U.S. not to “constantly challenge China’s red line,” which it said will only lead to “head-on collision,” in a phone call between Secretary of State Anthony Blinken and his Chinese counterpart late December.

The warning came days before China flew dozens of military aircraft near Taiwan in a “strike drill” that was the country’s biggest move in recent months to intimidate the island, which China sees as its own territory.

In the phone call, China Foreign Minister Wang Yi told Blinken that the U.S. needs to “stop using salami tactics” against “China’s red line,” according to China’s summary of the call. “Salami tactics” are smaller actions that add up to be as significant as a single, more provocative action. 

In November, Chinese President Xi Jinping warned that Taiwan, an island China sees as its own territory, is a “red line that cannot be crossed in the China-U.S. relationship.” At the time, President Joe Biden criticized China for its “coercive and increasingly aggressive actions toward Taiwan,” adding that the U.S. “opposes any unilateral changes to the status quo by either side.”

The leaders talked Taiwan during a three-hour meeting at the annual G20 summit in Bali, Indonesia. During the call on Dec. 23, Wang said the U.S. and China should “focus on translating” Biden and Xi’s Bali meeting “into practical policies and concrete actions.” 

Otherwise, he said, a “zero-sum mentality will only lead the two major countries to mutual attrition and head-on collision.”

“It is important that the two sides follow the course charted by the two presidents, explore the right way for China and the US to get along as two major countries, and make due efforts to advance the well-being of the two peoples and world peace and stability,” the Chinese summary of the call states.

The U.S. summary of the call is brief. Blinken “discussed the need to maintain open lines of communication and responsibly manage the U.S.-PRC relationship,” according to the State Department spokesman Ned Price.