Prof. ST Hsieh
Director, US-China Energy Industry Forum
The US State Department holds regular news briefing open to the public. It is a common practice around the world. In response to news reporters’ questions, officials can discuss some details about current events. The following excerpts are focused on US-China relation by the US State Department on January 27, 2022. The questions/answers are prompted by the phone call between US Secretary of State Binliken with China’s State Counselor and Foreign Minister, Wang Yi yesterday.
Two acknowledgements in this briefing, from the US perspective, are that China has a unique relationship with Russia and that China also has a special relationship with DPRK, respectively. The US obviously does not have such relationship with Russia and DPRK, respectively. While the Biden Administration has focused on re-building relationship with her global allies and declared that the US is back to the global stage, it is obvious that China has her allies too.
Further, the US asked China to influence Russia. The US also asked China to influence DPRK. It is not clear from this briefing what China’s response are.
The following is the text.
QUESTION: Asking – asking China to use its influence with Russia. There was the call, obviously, with Foreign Minister Wang last night, our time. Could you explain about – a little bit about that? Do you think that the Chinese are actually going to do that? Do you see any forward movement there?
And also, the Chinese readout of this focused a lot on the Winter Olympics and that the U.S. shouldn’t, quote-unquote, “interfere” in the Winter Olympics. Does the U.S. have any readout of what the Secretary said on that?
MR PRICE: We did issue a readout, as you said. The Secretary made the point at the top of that call that we view these engagements, this dialogue, our ability to communicate candidly with our PRC counterparts as a good thing, because our charge as we see it, our primary charge with the PRC and the management of perhaps the most consequential bilateral relationship in the world, is to manage that competition responsibly, and to do all that we can to ensure that competition doesn’t spill over into, God forbid, conflict. And so the Secretary made that point very clear. It’s a point that we’ve also heard from time to time from our PRC counterparts as well.
So as we stated in our readout, we – Secretary Blinken did raise with the foreign minister the Russian aggression that we’re seeing against Ukraine. As you heard from the under secretary, we have sought from countries around the world – you have noted that we have issued dozens and dozens of readouts in recent weeks, and almost all of them have made some mention of Russia’s aggression against Ukraine and our efforts to pursue dialogue and diplomacy just as we prepare with defense and deterrence.
So it shouldn’t come as a surprise that the Secretary did raise this issue with the PRC. The PRC has a relationship with Russia that is distinct from the one that we have with Russia, that is distinct from the relationship that many countries around the world have with Russia.
So as you heard from the under secretary, the PRC does have a relationship that would allow it to use its influence in a manner that we hope to be constructive, that we would like to see be constructive. There were other topics of discussion – the DPRK, and the DPRK’s recent provocations – but also other issues in the bilateral relationship. In nearly all of these discussions there is an opportunity to raise our concerns regarding human rights, regarding our well-known concerns about the ongoing genocide in Xinjiang and crimes against humanity, but also broader issues in the bilateral relationship, including Taiwan as well.
QUESTION: Can we just go back to China for a second, Ned, just on the embassy staffing there? Are there any updates? Obviously, the Chinese came out publicly before anything had been even – well, not only not announced, but also not decided in terms of dependents and non-essential staff there. Presumably that came up in the call, or at least the Chinese said it did as part of your alleged attempts to sabotage the Olympics. Is there anything new on that front?
MR PRICE: Matt, you’ve heard us speak to this in different contexts even in recent days. We have an overriding priority in this department and across this government. It is the priority we attach to the safety, security, the welfare, the well-being of Americans around the world, and that, of course, includes our colleagues on the ground in any particular country and their families as well.
The operating status at our mission in the PRC has not changed. Any change in that operating status would be predicated solely and exclusively on those issues – the health, the safety, the security of our colleagues and their family members.
Now, what is true is that we have longstanding concerns regarding the PRC’s quarantine and testing policies that run counter to diplomatic privileges and immunities. We have discussed this issue with PRC authorities both here in Washington and in Beijing at different levels, and we’ve recommended what we think are a series of reasonable options that would be consistent with COVID-19 mitigation measures, and at the same time align with international diplomatic norms and practices.
QUESTION: “Recommended to the Chinese,” you mean.
MR PRICE: That’s correct.
MR PRICE: So we’re not going to go into the details of this, but the – this has been an issue that’s been under discussion both here and in Beijing.
QUESTION: Okay. Well, can I just ask you to clarify something? When you talk about how the operating status of the embassy hasn’t changed, I mean, a – I think a reasonable person from the outside would look at this and say, well, if kids and spouses get sent home, that – and – but the primary person who is the employee doesn’t leave, that doesn’t change the operating status. But are you saying that that does? And so there has been actually no change —
MR PRICE: There has been no change in the operating status.
QUESTION: How was the reaction of the Chinese foreign minister yesterday?
MR PRICE: I’m sorry?
QUESTION: How was the reaction from the Chinese foreign minister during their conversation?
MR PRICE: So I wouldn’t want to characterize the reaction of the PRC foreign minister, but as you saw in our readout, it was a topic of discussion. It consistently is a topic of discussion, and this goes back to a conversation we were having about another relationship that the PRC maintains. The PRC, obviously, of course, maintains a relationship in this case with the DPRK that is unlike the relationship that most countries, the United States certainly included, has with that regime. We have consistently urged the PRC to use its influence constructively so that we can bring about together that overriding objective, and that’s the complete denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula.