China accuses US of creating ‘imaginary enemy’

Washington is suppressing China to divert focus from domestic woes, it charges

BEIJING: A top Chinese diplomat took a confrontational tone yesterday in rare high-level talks with the United States, accusing it of creating an "imaginary enemy" to divert attention from domestic problems and suppress China.

Amid worsening relations between the world's two largest economies, Deputy Secretary of State Wendy Sherman, the second-ranked US diplomat, arrived on Sunday for the face-to-face meetings in the northern city of Tianjin.

"The United States wants to reignite the sense of national purpose by establishing China as an 'imaginary enemy'," state television quoted Vice-Foreign Minister Xie Feng as saying in a report on yesterday morning's session, even as talks were under way.

The US had mobilised its government and society to suppress China, he added.

"As if once China's development is suppressed, US domestic and external problems will be resolved, and America will be great again, and America's hegemony can be continued."

Ms Sherman was set to meet Foreign Minister Wang Yi later yesterday.

Ms Sherman's expected position during the talks, as outlined by senior US officials, would be that the US welcomed competition with Beijing but would insist on a level playing field and "guardrails" to avoid conflicts.

The US government and lawmakers have been critical of China's policy in Hong Kong and Xinjiang, with the Senate having passed a Bill this month to ban imports from the region, citing forced labour concerns.

Last Wednesday, State Department spokesman Ned Price said that Ms Sherman would be travelling to China "from a position of strength".

Mr Xie said yesterday he presented a list of requests for the US to "correct" its past actions on China, such as sanctions on officials.

Yesterday's talks came amid frayed relations between Beijing and Washington that have worsened in the months since an initial diplomatic meeting in March in the US state of Alaska. - REUTERS