Wrecking ball diplomacy appears to have replaced trade war friction between China and the United States.
Just hours after US President Donald Trump tweeted that a phase one deal was “very close,” Beijing launched a rhetorical broadside on Washington’s foreign policy approach.
Citing the decision by the US Congress to introduce legislation which could target leading Chinese officials over human rights abuses in Hong Kong and Xinjiang, Foreign Minister Wang Yi warned on Friday:
“Such behavior is almost paranoid, and is indeed rare in international exchanges, seriously damaging the hard-won foundation of mutual trust between China and the United States, and seriously weakening the United States’ international credibility.”
Wang was referring to the upheaval in Hong Kong after months of pro-democracy protests and what the United Nations has called the mass internment of Uighur Muslims in Northwest China.
Diplomatic cracks have turned into chasms amid Sino-American talks to end the trade conflict which has dragged on for 18 months.
The state-run CGTN television network reported that Wang had strongly condemned Washington’s interference in “Hong Kong” and reiterated the “One Country, Two Systems” policy. He also denied allegations of mistreatment in “Xinjiang Uigur Autonomous Region.”
“[China will] resolutely fight against external forces that interfere in Hong Kong’s affairs [and] sever the black hands [supporting] revolution [in Hong Kong],” Wang told an annual symposium on international affairs in Beijing.
His comments came after President Xi Jinping’s government mounted a major publicity campaign to promote its own vision of human rights.
Earlier this week, it invited delegates from hardline states such as North Korea and Syria to a summit to discuss a “strong counter-narrative” to democratic values.
At the top of the agenda was the emphasis on security and economic development over civil and political freedoms.
“The people of each country have the right to decide for themselves their human rights development path,” China’s Vice-Foreign Minister Ma Zhaoxu told representatives from 70 countries at the South-South Human Rights Forum.
Under Xi, the world’s second-largest economy has become more vocal on the global stage, pushing its own brand of “human rights.”
“[Beijing is mounting a PR campaign] to counter criticisms on its failure to respect international human rights standards,” Patrick Poon, a researcher at Amnesty International, said.
But then, this is just part of China’s diplomatic mission as the country’s economic rise is mirrored by a more assertive foreign policy.
“What does China want? Economic supremacy,” Jonathan DT Ward, the founder of consultancy Atlas Organization and the author of China’s Vision of Victory, wrote.
“China can become, in many of our lifetimes, a global power ‘second to none’… The Chinese Communist Party’s strategy is intended to deliver the creation of a new world system with China at its center – and the de facto end of an American-led world,” he added.
In the years ahead, Trump’s phase one trade accord might struggle to become a footnote in history amid a broader battle of democratic values.