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Beijing urged the US to stop “demonizing” China during Monday talks with Deputy Secretary of State Wendy Sherman, the highest-level official to visit under President Joe Biden’s administration.

Sherman arrived in the city of Tianjin on Sunday, aiming to seek “guardrails” as ties between the world’s top two economies continue to deteriorate on a range of issues from cybersecurity to human rights.

“The hope may be that by demonizing China, the US could somehow … blame China for its own structural problems,” China’s foreign ministry wrote in a readout of the talks between Sherman and Chinese Vice Foreign Minister Xie Feng. 

“We urge the United States to change its highly misguided mindset and dangerous policy,” the statement said, adding that the US views China as an “imagined enemy.”

The ministry described relations as at a “stalemate” and facing “serious difficulties.”

Sherman will also meet with Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi.

The US said last week it was hoping to use the talks as an opportunity to show Beijing “what responsible and healthy competition looks like” but wanted to avoid “conflict.”

The July 25-26 trip is shorn of the trappings of a full-fledged official visit. Sherman will not go to Beijing, but instead is spending two days in Tianjin, a northeastern port city.

John Kerry, the former secretary of state turned US climate envoy, is the only other senior official from the Biden administration to have visited China.

Last week, the United States rallied allies including NATO for a rare joint condemnation of the large-scale cyber attacks allegedly coming from China.

– AFP