Chinese foreign minister Wang Yi gave a lengthy interview with state-run news agency Xinhua released Thursday downplaying tensions with the United States in a response to a speech by Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.
In a rare fully translated English release, Wang gave an account of Sino-American relations without addressing the problems apparent in recent months. He denied that Beijing was at all responsible for the deteriorating relations with Washington, instead chalking the tension up to American "McCarthyism" and a "Cold War mentality."
Wang denied charges of Chinese interference in the United States. "China never intends to and will never interfere in US elections or other US internal affairs," he said. "Likewise, the US must abandon its fantasy of remodeling China to US needs. It must stop its meddling in China’s internal affairs, and stop its irrational cracking down on China’s legitimate rights and interests."
China has consistently engaged in information warfare, often tied to U.S. elections, and recently attempted to steal sensitive COVID vaccine data from U.S. research institutions. American authorities have recently taken to arresting Chinese nationals on espionage and conspiracy charges.
Meanwhile, the U.S. has raised concerns about human rights abuses in China. Pompeo continues to make human rights and freedom a priority of American foreign policy, and has said China’s internment of Uighur Muslims runs afoul of that priority. China’s hostile takeover of Hong Kong also puts American economic and political interests at risk.
National security experts told the Washington Free Beacon that Wang's interview is another page out of an old playbook from China.
"This is not really a new speech, just the recycling of Beijing’s usual nonsense about win-win cooperation and the like," Zach Cooper, a China scholar at the American Enterprise Institute told the Free Beacon. "Wang Yi ignores most of the serious problems in the relationship … and he blames the United States entirely for the worsening of relations. Of course, the reality is that the Communist Party’s own actions are largely to blame."
Foundation for Defense of Democracies scholar Craig Singleton added Beijing's lip service to cooperation will have little tangible impact on the Sino-American relationship.
"This faux olive branch is likely too little, too late to have any real significance on the bilateral relationship," Singleton said. "Barring a genuine desire from Beijing to make much needed structural changes to its economy or a willingness on its part to cease its malign influence operations, including ongoing efforts to steal COVID-19 vaccine research, it’s likely that tensions between the two countries will continue to increase between now and the 2020 election."
"These types of speeches may play well in Beijing," Cooper said, "but they certainly won’t convince anyone in the United States that the Communist Party is taking American concerns seriously."