The US has pulled back from its confrontational approach to China. Image: iStock

United States-China relations will improve only if the US cuts tariffs on Chinese goods and removes Chinese firms from its entity or special restrictions list, Chinese media said after key officials met on October 6 and 9.

China will not stop developing its high-tech sector at the US behest as the two countries will only achieve mutual benefits under international rules, according to two commentaries published by state media on Monday.

While Beijing criticized the US for maintaining a tough stance against China by describing the country as a non-market economy, it is willing to maintain a dialogue with Washington as long as the discussion is done in an attitude of equality, not from a US position of strength.

After Chinese President Xi Jinping and US President Joe Biden had a 90-minute phone call on September 10, US Trade Representative Katherine Tai announced the Biden administration’s “New Approach to the US-China Trade Relationship” last week.

Tai said the US would “deploy all tools and explore the development of new ones, including through collaboration with other economies and countries,” to address the fundamental concerns related to China’s trade practices. Tai said the US had serious concerns with China’s state-centered and non-market trade practices that were not addressed in the phase one trade deal signed in January 2020.

On October 6, Yang Jiechi, member of the Politburo of the Communist Party of China Central Committee and director of the Office of the Central Commission for Foreign Affairs, met with US National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan for six hours in Zurich, Switzerland. China said the two sides had a comprehensive, candid and in-depth exchange of views on China-US relations and international and regional issues of common concern during the meeting.

Yang said the US side needed to have a deep understanding of the mutually beneficial nature of US-China relations and correctly understand China’s domestic and foreign policies and strategic intentions. He said China opposed defining US-China relations as “competitive”.

Yang said China had noticed that the US side said it had no intention of containing China’s development and did not seek a “new Cold War.” He said China hoped the US side could adopt a rational and pragmatic China policy, and, together with China, respect each other’s core interests and major concerns, and follow a path of mutual respect, peaceful coexistence and win-win cooperation.

Chinese President Xi Jinping and US President Joe Biden may speak in a virtual summit. Photos: AFP / Nicolas Asfouri and Nicholas Kamm

Zhao Lijian, a spokesman of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, said on October 8 that Yang and Sullivan had discussed a possible video conference that would be held between Xi and Biden by the end of this year. Zhao said the discussion was based on the two leaders’ consensus on September 10 that both sides would maintain regular contact through a variety of methods.

On September 15, the Financial Times reported that Xi had declined to meet face-to-face with Biden as the Chinese leader would continue to avoid leaving his country due to the Covid-19 pandemic. Zhao said at that time that the two leaders would maintain regular contact but he did not give a timetable.

Last Saturday, Tai and Chinese Vice Premier Liu He held a virtual meeting to discuss the US-China trade relationship. According to the Office of the USTR, Tai and Liu reviewed implementation of the US-China Economic and Trade Agreement and agreed that the two sides would consult on certain outstanding issues.

Tai emphasized US concerns relating to China’s state-led, non-market policies and practices that harm American workers, farmers and businesses. She noted that she looked forward to following up with Liu in the near future.

Xinhua reported that during the meeting between Tai and Liu, both sides expressed their core concerns and agreed to resolve each other’s legitimate concerns through consultation. It said the Chinese side lodged representations on the lifting of additional tariffs and sanctions and expounded its position on such issues as China’s economic development model and industrial policy.

It added that the two sides agreed to continue to communicate in an attitude of equality and mutual respect so as to create favorable conditions for the healthy development of bilateral economic and trade relations and the recovery of the world economy.

On Monday, the Global Times, a CPC mouthpiece, published an editorial titled “China has gained confidence after discussing trade with the US in an attitude of equality.”

The article said the US had relaxed its gestures in the Yang-Sullivan and Tai-Liu meetings but it maintained a stance of “bargaining while holding a big rod” and continued to suppress China. It said Beijing would determine the Biden administration’s sincerity to improve the US-China relations by checking whether it would reduce tariffs for Chinese goods and remove Chinese firms from its entity list.

Katherine Tai says the US has serious concerns about China’s state-centered and non-market trade practices. Photo: AFP / Susan Walsh

“By labeling China’s basic economic system and industrial policies as ‘state-centered’ and ‘authoritarian’ and claiming that China’s ‘non-market approach’ has undermined the US interests, the US clearly wants to reduce China’s competitiveness and ability to become economically independent and hurt China’s economic power,” said the article. “It wants China not to invest in high technology but focus on low-end products so that the US can maintain its long-term leading status in technology.”

The article said China would not “launch a self-defeating policy” to stop the development of its high-tech industry. It said Beijing would seek the biggest interests of China and the US under the international rules, but not Washington’s unilateral definitions.

People’s Daily Online also published an article titled “China won’t launch any self-defeating policy to please the US.”

“During the Tai-Liu meeting, the US once again released wild words, showed its lofty attitude and made unreasonable demands on China,” it said. “The US hopes that China can change its national policies to protect the US’ interests. It’s difficult for us to have hopes for the normalization of the US-China relations.”

The article said the US had shown a friendly gesture to try to communicate with China but had not actually changed its China policy. It said until now the US had not cut tariffs for Chinese goods or removed Chinese companies from its entity list.

“If the US does not cancel its trade war policies, the discussions about normalization and healthy development of the US-China bilateral relationship can’t be pushed forward,” it said. “As a great power, the US should show its respect to China.”

On September 29, officials from the US and the European Union held the first meeting of the EU-US Trade and Technology Council in Pittsburgh. The council set up 10 working groups on different topics, including misuse of technology threatening security and human rights, export controls and investment screening, aiming to protect EU-US businesses, consumers, and workers from unfair trade practices.

Chen Bing, a commentator of the Shenzhen Satellite TV, said the US did not only want to form an alliance with the EU but also wanted to gather Asian countries to suppress China’s economic, trade, technology and financial influence. Chen said the US did not hesitate to violate the principles of the World Trade Organization and globalization and marketization rules by excluding China from the global supply chain. He also criticized the US for threatening China with the AUKUS and Quadrilateral Security Dialogue.

“China will face severe challenges from its manufacturing to technology sectors. Its Xinjiang cotton and solar products will be suppressed by the US and its allies,” Chen said. “Fortunately, the Chinese economy is resilient with its large domestic market and strong consumption, as well as the unity of its people. It will be able to counteract the enormous pressure from the US and the West.”

Read: China defiant amid new US trade war threats