Thursday, June 13, 2024

China holds fire over Obama’s criticism


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BEIJING: China appeared keen on Tuesday to avoid a quarrel with the United States over trade and currency stances, stressing that the world’s two biggest economies share a stake in stable ties.

Assistant Chinese Foreign Minister, Liu Zhenmin, did not directly address US President Barack Obama’s comments in Hawaii on Sunday that the United States was fed up with China’s trade and currency practices.

”The meaning of President Obama’s comments is a question that you should ask the White House and the State Department spokespeople,” Liu told a news briefing.

”China and the United States are also economic partners each of which is important to the other,” Liu said at the briefing about Premier Wen Jiabao’s attendance at regional summits in Indonesia this week. Obama will meet Wen during the meetings.

”I think that along with the development of economic globalisation, and the development of Asia-Pacific regional cooperation, China and the United States have massive potential to further strengthen economic and trade cooperation.”

China has sought to put its relationship with the United States back on track, mindful that more feuding could complicate a handover of top posts among China’s Communist Party leaders in 2012.

Using some of his toughest language yet against China, Obama, a day after face-to-face talks with President Hu Jintao, called on China to take on the responsibilities of a ”grown up” economy, stop ”gaming the system” and create a level playing field for US and other foreign businesses.

China, America’s biggest foreign creditor and its fastest-growing major export market, shot back that it refused to abide by international economic rules that it had no part in writing.

Tension had been building in the lead-up to the annual Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) forum gathering over a proposed US-led free trade deal that Washington wants as a counterbalance to Chinese influence but China sees as an attempt to force it to play by US rules.

China’s government will not welcome such remarks, but its leaders have shown throughout this year that they want to keep relations with the United States steady, and avoid feuding that could distract them from a handover of top posts among Communist Party leaders from late 2012.

Beijing held back from broader retaliation after Obama meet exiled Tibetan leader, the Dalai lama — scorned by China as a foe of its rule in his homeland — and after the White House announced new arms sales offers to Taiwan, the self-ruled island that China claims as its own.

”Some harsh words from President Obama won’t come as a complete surprise because he’s facing a grim economy at home, so Americans are in a bad mood,” said Shi Yinhong, a professor of international security at Renmin University in Beijing.

The US election could intensify trade tensions, he added.

”But China generally sticks to a pattern of avoiding open quarrels with the President … China wants to ensure that stability remains in place.”

The currency dispute between China and the United States has been at the heart of tension between the rivals.

Washington has long accused Beijing of keeping the yuan rtificially weak to give its exporters an advantage. China counters that the currency should rise only gradually to avoid harming the economy and driving up unemployment, which would in turn hurt global growth.

Liu suggested that the two governments should keep an amicable face on relations at the impending regional summit.

”China and the United States both have a major impact on the Asia-Pacific region,” Liu said. ”For the two countries to carry out cooperation and mutually benefit in Asia suits not only their interests, but also helps regional peace and development.”

Last year, US-China relations were beset by a series of disputes, including disagreements over China’s trade and currency practices, U.S. arms sales to Taiwan, China’s military build-up in the Pacific and its human rights record.

The East Asia Summit gathers senior officials or leaders from Southeast Asia, China, Japan, India, Australia, Russia, South Korea and New Zealand. (UNI)


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