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US-China tensions

China sees 3 areas of cooperation with Biden: foreign minister

Wang Yi calls for joint action on COVID, economic recovery and climate change

Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi addressed the Asia Society on Dec. 18, marking the first comprehensive speech by a senior Chinese official on Sino-American relations since Joe Biden's election as U.S. president.   © Reuters

NEW YORK -- On his transition website, President-elect Joe Biden spotlights four areas to tackle from day one: confronting a pandemic, an economic crisis, calls for racial justice, and climate change.

China can help with three, Foreign Minister Wang Yi said Friday to the New York-based Asia Society think tank via video.

"We have noted the four priorities laid out by President-elect Biden," Wang said. "We believe that at least three -- COVID response, economic recovery and climate change -- provide space for cooperation between our two countries."

It marked the first comprehensive speech by a senior Chinese official on Sino-American relations since Biden's election. The diplomat labeled any U.S. efforts to remodel or subvert China "mission impossible" and called on the president-elect to "return bilateral relations to the right track and rebuild mutual trust."

Talking about cooperation on the coronavirus pandemic, Wang said China has provided over 40 billion face masks to the U.S. "That is, on average, every American citizen gets over 100 face masks made in China," he said.

Noting that the two sides could strengthen cooperation in diagnostic and therapeutic experience, production of personal protective equipment, and vaccine research, manufacturing and distribution, Wang added: "We could also leverage our respective strengths to support COVID response in third countries and contribute to a global community of health for all."

On climate change, he said: "We have also noted that President-elect Biden has pledged to bring the U.S. back to the Paris Agreement after taking office. We welcome more active actions from the U.S. side to this end."

Wang said that both countries need to strengthen macroeconomic dialogue and that China is ready to coordinate policies, hinting at a resumption of the two-way strategic dialogues once held under previous American administrations.

He was harsh on the Trump administration's trade policies, bluntly declaring: "There are no winners in trade wars."

China-U.S. trade is "mutually beneficial in nature," Wang said, later adding that "the two sides need to remove manmade barriers and instill positive expectations for the sound development of bilateral economic and trade cooperation."

In his own way, the foreign minister said the trade imbalance between the two countries -- the root of President Donald Trump's ire toward Beijing -- will take care of itself as China grows into a bigger economy than the U.S.

The Chinese market will continue to grow and is expected to become the largest and most vibrant in the world, Wang said. "This means China can and needs to buy more products, with active demand in the Chinese market, from the United States. And it is just a matter of time before the trade imbalance is eased."

He touched on Beijing's usual talking points to offer reassurance that the country has no expansionist designs.

"China has no intention to compete for hegemony," he said. "We never interfere in others' internal affairs. We don't export our system or model. Not in the least do we seek spheres of influence."

Wang criticized moves by Washington to block Chinese companies from doing business with American counterparts.

"We urge the U.S. side to stop overstretching the notion of national security," he said. "Stop the arbitrary suppression of Chinese companies."

"Just in recent days, the executive branch of the U.S. administration has been expanding the list of sanctions against Chinese companies," he continued. "This is unacceptable. We hope the U.S. side will take a sober-minded approach and provide an open, fair and nondiscriminatory environment for Chinese businesses and investors."

On the Trump administration's increased scrutiny of Chinese students and academics, Wang said that "to view all Chinese students, experts and scholars in the U.S. as spy suspects actually says more about the mentality of the accusers and their lack of confidence."

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