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China Sees Worrying Trend for Future   07/16 06:12

   

   BEIJING (AP) -- On Monday, it was the South China Sea. On Tuesday, it was 
Hong Kong. On Wednesday, Huawei and human rights.

   The Trump administration appears to be accelerating a push to define China 
as a strategic threat, a worrying trend for the country's leaders as the 
ambitions of a rising economic and military power collide with America's.

   A senior official accused the U.S. this week of using the Hong Kong issue to 
try to obstruct China's development.

   Vice Foreign Minister Zheng Zeguang told U.S. Ambassador Terry Branstad in a 
meeting in Beijing that threats of U.S. sanctions and the withdrawal of special 
trading privileges for Hong Kong are not about democracy and freedom in the 
semi-autonomous territory but an attempt to contain China.

   "I want to warn the U.S. sternly that any bullying and unfairness imposed on 
China by the U.S. will meet resolute counterattack from China, and the U.S. 
attempt to obstruct China's development is doomed to failure," he said, 
according to an account carried by state media.

   Behind the tough words is growing concern. Foreign Minister Wang Yi said in 
a speech last week that U.S.-China relations face their most severe challenge 
since the two countries established diplomatic ties in 1979. He asked if 
bilateral relations will be able to stay the course after a more than 
four-decade voyage.

   At one level, the Trump administration's attacks on China are seen as 
election-year politics, an attempt to woo voters and distract them from 
problems at home. President Donald Trump has sought to blame the coronavirus 
outbreak on China, rather than on any shortcomings in how his government dealt 
with it.

   But America's differences with China go beyond Trump. The tone could change 
if he is not re-elected in November, but the underlying issues will remain.

   Ahead of the election, the factors leading to a possible free-fall in 
relations are becoming more intense, said Shi Yinhong, an international 
relations professor at Renmin University in China.

   "After the U.S. elections, a window might emerge for serious dialogue, but 
... the overall situation will not be reversed," he said. He added that he 
doesn't see a strategy the two governments could adopt to ease tensions.

   The two countries have a fundamental divide in their thinking. The U.S. has 
always hoped that China would become more democratic as its interactions with 
the rest of the world grow. China's long-ruling Communist Party says the two 
should respect their differences.

   "China and the U.S. should not seek to remodel each other," Wang said in his 
speech. "Instead, they must work together to find ways to peaceful coexistence."

   The divide is playing out in Hong Kong, where the U.S. and other Western 
democracies have grown increasingly concerned over China's imposition of a 
security law that is seen as a threat to freedom of speech and the right to 
protest.

   China views outside pressure on Hong Kong and other human rights issues as 
interference in its domestic affairs.

   Branstad expressed to Zheng deep American concern about Chinese decisions 
that erode fundamental freedoms in Hong Kong, according to a statement posted 
on the U.S. Embassy website Thursday.

   It said Branstad explained the Trump administration's finding that the city 
of 7.5 million people is no longer sufficiently autonomous from China to merit 
special treatment in trade. He also called on China to restore Hong Kong's 
liberties.

   Trump signed the Hong Kong Autonomy Act on Tuesday, a law that sanctions 
officials who undermine the city's autonomy, as well as an executive order 
affirming an earlier decision to eliminate the preferential trade treatment.

   That followed a declaration by Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on Monday that 
the U.S. would not recognize most of China's maritime claims in the South China 
Sea. On Wednesday, Pompeo said the U.S. would ban employees from Huawei and 
other Chinese companies who aided alleged human rights abuses in places such as 
China's Xinjiang region.

   The U.S. has "interfered with China's internal affairs and harmed China's 
interests on the issues of Xinjiang, Tibet and the South China Sea, further 
exposing its nature of naked hegemony," Zheng told Branstad.

   While Zheng urged the U.S. not to go "further and further on the wrong 
path," Branstad called on China to refrain from any further erosion of Hong 
Kong's autonomy.

   Chu Yin, a professor at the University of International Relations, offered a 
glimmer of hope. He said frictions between nations always rise during times of 
economic slowdown.

   "China's foreign diplomacy is facing grave and complicated challenges, but 
the situation will improve a lot with the easing of the epidemic situation and 
the recovery of the economy," he predicted.

 
 
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