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Beijing seeks to fracture US-led ‘clique’

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President Donald Trump with President Xi Jinping of China during a welcome ceremony in Beijing, November 9, 2017. Washington and Beijing are preparing to tackle thorny trade issues that went unaddressed by a meeting that stressed cooperation and muted rhetoric. (Photo: NYTimes)
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China is shoring up ties with autocratic partners like Russia and Iran, as well as economically dependent regional countries, while using sanctions and threats to try to fracture the alliances the United States is building against it.اضافة اعلان

Worryingly for Beijing, diplomats and analysts say, the Biden administration has got other democracies to toughen up to a rising, more globally assertive China on human rights and regional security issues like the disputed South China Sea.

“China has always resolutely opposed the US side engaging in bloc politics along ideological lines, and ganging up to form anti-China cliques,” the Chinese foreign ministry said in a statement to Reuters.

“We hope relevant countries see clearly their own interests ... and are not reduced to being anti-China tools of the US”

After last month’s stormy talks between top US and Chinese diplomats in Anchorage, Beijing also appeared to engage more urgently with countries like Russia, Iran, and North Korea, which are also on the wrong end of US-led sanctions.

“China is very worried about US alliance diplomacy,” said Li Mingjiang, associate professor at the S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies in Singapore, pointing to what he calls attempts to “huddle for warmth” with governments shunned by the West. Days after the Alaska meeting, the Chinese government’s top diplomat, State Councilor Wang Yi, received Russia’s foreign minister Sergei Lavrov, who called for Moscow and Beijing to push back against what he called the West’s ideological agenda.

A week later, Wang flew to Iran and signed a 25-year economic pact, which Renmin University professor Shi Yinhong said “effectively exposes every Chinese company participating to direct or indirect US sanctions.”

President Xi Jinping, meanwhile, exchanged messages with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, calling for a deeper partnership with another country whose ambitions for nuclear arms has drawn sanctions.

China is also wooing its economically dependent neighbors. Wang hosted foreign ministers from Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore, and South Korea in China’s southeastern Fujian province in recent weeks.

Li said Beijing will be holding out promises to help these countries revive their economies after the COVID-19 pandemic, making them think twice about siding with the United States.

China has responded angrily to shows of unity by Washington’s allies, with its diplomats dubbing Japan a “vassal” and Canada’s Prime Minister Justin Trudeau a “running dog” of the United States. China’s strategy to weaken this unity revolves around encouraging US allies to engage independently with Beijing, and put the economic benefits first, while punishing them if they engage in joint-action against China.

Beijing responded to the EU’s sanctions of Chinese officials over Xinjiang with disproportionately harsh counter-sanctions, analysts said, potentially torpedoing a long-awaited investment agreement.

Janka Oertel, director of the Asia Program at the European Council on Foreign Relations, believes Beijing is prepared to sacrifice economic benefits for core interests if they are threatened by the US-EU alliance.

Xi drove home the message in a recent phone call with German Chancellor Angela Merkel, telling her that he hoped “the EU will make a correct judgment on its independence.”

But China still needs European technology and investment, said Joerg Wuttke, president of the European Chamber of Commerce in China. “They still talk to us, despite the sanctions, business keeps going, and that’s very reassuring.”

Beijing has not given up persuading Washington that cooperation is better than competition, as demonstrated last week when it assured US climate envoy John Kerry of support for Biden’s virtual climate summit this week.

“China hopes Washington can appreciate that it is in US interests to have China as a friend rather than as a foe,” said Wang Wen, a professor at the Chongyang Institute of the Renmin University of China.


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