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China People's Congress

China slams US over 'unethical' stance on Huawei

Comments come as spokesman hails progress in trade talks with Washington

Zhang Yesui, a spokesman for National People's Congress, speaks at a news conference at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing on Monday. (Photo by Taro Yokosawa)

BEIJING -- The Chinese government lashed out at the U.S. campaign against telecommunications equipment maker Huawei Technologies on Monday even as it hailed progress in negotiations over trade and North Korean denuclearization.

Taking questions from reporters ahead of Tuesday's opening of the annual meeting of the National People's Congress in Beijing, Zhang Yesui, a former ambassador to Washington, said the U.S. was applying a "typical double standard" to Huawei that was "neither fair nor ethical."

U.S. efforts to persuade other governments to block Huawei out of their telecom networks violate the rules of the World Trade Organization, he said.

Zhang's comments followed Canada's decision on Friday to proceed with the extradition of Huawei Chief Financial Officer Meng Wanzhou to the U.S. to face charges of alleged bank fraud. Meng responded over the weekend with a legal challenge to the way she had been questioned and searched in Canada.

Huawei is not expected to figure in the formal agenda of the National People's Congress. But the legislature's convocation comes as American and Chinese officials work to finalize an agreement on trade ahead of an expected meeting between presidents Donald Trump and Xi Jinping later this month.

"In the past few months, both sides have engaged in intensive and productive consultations and so far have achieved substantive progress of many issues of mutual interest," Zhang said Monday. "This has been well received in both countries and in the international community."

Chinese President Xi Jinping arrives for the opening session of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC) at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing on Sunday.   © Reuters

Zhang separately noted that the legislature will be voting on a revised foreign investment law that contains enhanced protections for the intellectual property of foreign companies and a prohibition on forced transfers of technology, both key U.S. concerns. The changes, Zhang said, will help create a "more open and predictable environment" for foreign business.

"The fact is the interests of the U.S. and China are so intertwined that a confrontational relationship will serve neither side's interest," he said. "If history teaches us anything, it is that both sides stand to gain from cooperation and lose from confrontation."

Zhang also sought to dismiss U.S. concerns about rising Chinese military spending.

"A proper increase in the defense budget is needed to safeguard national security and transform China's military," he said. Adding that China's military budget, as a proportion of GDP, is lower than that of the U.S. among other countries, he said, "It is not a threat to other countries."

China's official defense budget for 2019 is expected to be revealed on Tuesday during the legislature's opening session as officials outline overall spending plans for the year. Even so, many analysts say that the official budget significantly understates China's total military spending.

Asked about Trump's unsuccessful talks in Hanoi last week with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, Zhang remained upbeat.

"The Korean Peninsula issue is highly complicated and sensitive, so there is no easy fix," he said. "We cannot expect the issue to be resolved with one or two meetings."

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