The United States and China clashed on Friday in an unusual call, as President Joe Biden made his international debut at the G7 summit, with his administration pressing Beijing on the relationship with Taiwan, the origin of COVID-19 and human rights. .
The head of US diplomacy, Antony Blinken, who accompanied Biden to the summit of industrial democracies in England, spoke by phone with his Chinese counterpart, Yang Jiechi. It was their first conversation since a heated in-person meeting in Alaska in March.
As Biden took advantage of his first presidential trip abroad to unveil a massive plan to purchase and distribute 500 million doses of anticovid vaccines around the world, Blinken renewed the US pressure on China regarding the origins of the pandemic, which it has killed more than 3.7 million people.
Blinken “underscored the importance of cooperation and transparency regarding the origin of the virus,” including allowing experts from the World Health Organization (WHO) to return to China, according to a statement from the US State Department.
Biden ordered a report from the US intelligence services by the end of August to establish whether COVID-19, first detected in late 2019 in the Chinese city of Wuhan, arose from an animal source or from a laboratory leak.
Former President Donald Trump wielded the theory of a laboratory leak, but it was widely discarded as many believed that he was seeking to deflect criticism about his own management of the pandemic.
However, Biden considers a more in-depth study necessary after criticizing Beijing for not giving more access to a WHO investigation.
The lab’s theory sparked outrage from Beijing, which has tried to present itself in the eyes of the world as the country that came up with a blueprint for how to contain the virus.
– “Interests of small circles” –
Yang, a senior politburo member who has long led the management of Beijing’s relations with the United States, renewed the denunciations against Washington while Biden met with the leaders of other G7 countries: Great Britain, Canada, France, Germany, Italy and Japan.
“Genuine multilateralism is not pseudo-multilateralism based on the interests of small circles,” Yang told Blinken, according to state television.
“The only genuine multilateralism is one that is based on the principles of the United Nations charter and international law,” he added.
Yang also reiterated accusations of hypocrisy toward the United States on human rights when Blinken lobbied for what it sees as the genocide of Uighurs and other mostly Muslim peoples who are detained in camps.
“The United States should resolve serious human rights violations in its own territory, and not use so-called human rights issues as an excuse to arbitrarily interfere in the internal affairs of other countries,” he said.
Yang made similar allegations about the United States on camera during the March meeting in Anchorage, Alaska, puzzling US officials who were expecting brief and civil remarks.
– Concerns about Taiwan –
Blinken also expressed concern about increasing pressure from China on Taiwan, including military flights off its coast.
Thus, he asked Beijing to “end its pressure campaign against Taiwan” and to “resolve peacefully” issues related to the island, the State Department said.
Washington is increasingly alarmed by the possibility that China will try to use force in Taiwan, an autonomous democracy it considers part of its territory, after its extensive restrictions on freedoms in Hong Kong.
In recent days, the United States agreed to reopen trade talks with Taiwan and authorized a military plane to carry a delegation of senators with anticovid vaccines.
Amid widespread bipartisan criticism of China, Democrat Biden has largely continued Republican Trump’s stance.
The Biden government has described China as a preeminent international challenge and has vowed to counter it by strengthening alliances and investing heavily in infrastructure and development in their country.