SHANGHAI -- China's top diplomat has called on the new U.S. administration of President Joe Biden to change policies set by his predecessor that plunged bilateral relations into their most difficult period since the normalization of diplomatic ties.
Yang Jiechi, head of the Chinese Communist Party's Central Foreign Affairs Commission, told a U.S.-organized forum on Tuesday that Washington should also stop what Beijing sees as interference in the internal affairs in Hong Kong and Xinjiang in order to restore bilateral ties.
"I hope that the U.S. will rise above the outdated mentality of zero-sum, major-power rivalry and work with China to keep the relationship on the right track," Yang said on a video link to the National Committee on U.S.-China Relations on Tuesday.
Under President Donald Trump, Washington regarded Beijing as a "strategic competitor" that was challenging the U.S. on issues such as trade and technology and expanding its influence abroad by leveraging its economic might. Such views have been upheld by the Biden administration, which is viewed as taking a more cohesive approach to confronting Beijing.
"We hope the new administration ... will be able to return the relationship to the course of sound and steady development," he said. "The previous administration has pursued some misguided policies towards China. The root cause, I would say, is a strategic misjudgment that is historically, fundamentally and strategically wrong."
Yang, a member of the Communist Party's decision-making Politburo, also said, "The United States should stop interference in the affairs of Hong Kong, Tibet and Xinjiang, which all matter to China's sovereignty and territorial integrity, and stop attempt[s] to stop China's development by meddling in China's internal affairs."
He said China has never intended to export its development model or seek ideological confrontation. "China has no intention to challenge or replace the U.S. position in the world or to carve out a sphere of influence," he said.
"Likewise," he said, "we expect the United States to honor its commitment under the three Sino-U.S. joint communiques, strictly abide by the 'One China' principle" set by Beijing and respect that "these issues concern China's core interests, national dignity as well as the sentiments of its 1.4 billion people. They constitute a red line that must not be crossed. Any trespassing would end up undermining China-U.S. relations and the United States' own interest[s]."
Yang offered to work with Washington on areas such as COVID-19 response, economic recovery and climate change.
Putting aside differences and seeking common ground would put the bilateral relationship back on the "path of improvement and development," Yang said.
Yang is the second high-ranking official to have addressed U.S. entities in recent weeks seeking to mend ties with the new administration. Vice President Wang Qishan spoke to a U.S. business forum on Friday, advocating a nonconfrontational approach as the key to keeping a stable bilateral relationship.
Asked about Yang's comment on China's red line, U.S. State Department spokesperson Ned Price said "we would respond by saying we urge Beijing to cease its military, diplomatic and economic pressure against Taiwan, and instead engage in meaningful dialogue with Taiwan's democratically elected leadership."
The U.S. is in "serious competition with China" and will "counter China's aggressive and coercive actions," said Price, commenting on broader Washington-Beijing relations.
But "we understand, too, that there are going to be issues" -- such as climate -- "for which we share a national interest, in which it is in our national interest to cooperate on a limited basis with China," the State Department official added.
Additional reporting by Alex Fang in New York