The United States should abandon its “wishful thinking about changing China” and stop pushing the two countries “to the brink of a new Cold War,” Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi said Sunday, trying to position Beijing as the grown-up in an increasingly fractious relationship.
As tensions between the world’s two largest economies mounting by the day, Wang used the opportunity of a news conference during the annual piece of political theater known as the National People’s Congress to send a direct message to Washington.
“China has no intention to change, still less replace the United States,” Wang said Sunday before a selected group of journalists. “It’s time for the United States to give up its wishful thinking of changing China and stopping 1.4 billion people in their historic march toward modernization.”
In a nod toward President Donald Trump and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, who have repeatedly suggested that the ruling Chinese Communist Party is a threat to the world, Wang said that American politicians “are taking China-U.S. relations hostage and pushing our two countries to the brink of a new Cold War.”
“This dangerous attempt to turn back the will of history will undo the fruits of decades-long China-U.S. cooperation, dampen America’s own development prospects and put world stability and prosperity in jeopardy,” Wang said.
Under Trump, whose administration labeled China as a strategic “competitor” in its first national security strategy, Beijing and Washington have clashed over everything from trade and technology to human rights and the status of Hong Kong.
Washington views China as a malign force out to reshape the world in its image, while Beijing thinks that United States is trying to contain its ascent to its rightful place as a global superpower.
This year, the conflict has taken on a new dimension, with the emergence of a novel coronavirus in the Chinese city of Wuhan. Reeling from more than 100,000 deaths in the United States, the Trump administration is trying to heap the blame for the pandemic entirely on China’s ruling Communist Party.
This includes, most recently, a claim by White House trade adviser Peter Navarro that China “sent hundreds of thousands” of people infected with the virus on planes to “seed” the virus around the world. “They could have kept it in Wuhan, but instead, it became a pandemic,” he told ABC News last week.
On Sunday, national security adviser Robert O’Brien criticized China for not being transparent about the early spread of the disease.
“The coverup that they did of the virus is going to go down in history along with Chernobyl,” O’Brien said on NBC’s Meet the Press. He predicted that the United States would develop a coronavirus vaccine before China.
A spokesman for Wang has suggested that American soldiers planted the virus in Wuhan during military games that were held in the city in October.
Wang focused only on the American theories Sunday, saying that some American politicians were trying to “stigmatize China.”
“It’s most regrettable that while coronavirus is still out there, a political virus is still spreading in the United States and, jumping at any opportunity to attack and slander China, some politicians ignore the basic facts and make up countless lies and conspiracy theories concerning China,” he said.
The Global Times, a newspaper affiliated with the Communist Party, reported Sunday that China was “considering punitive countermeasures” against some American politicians leading the efforts to hold it accountable for the virus.
These included Eric Schmitt, the Missouri attorney general who filed a lawsuit against China seeking compensation for the coronavirus pandemic, and congressmen including Senators Josh Hawley and Tom Cotton, the paper reported, citing anonymous “sources close to the matter.”
At least four representatives and two entities would be sanctioned by China, reported the paper, which often reflects the foreign policy thinking of the party.