US embassy takes softer tone on China as presidential election finish line nears

Jun Mai
·2-min read

Washington will seek a “results-oriented relationship” with Beijing after the US presidential election, its acting top diplomat in Beijing said.

“Talking to each other is the best way to understand each other,” the US embassy said in a post on its WeChat account on Friday.

“Whatever the outcome of the US election, the United States would continue to push for a fair and reciprocal relationship with China and that there is widespread and consistent bipartisan support for current US policies towards China.”

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The statement quoted comments Robert Forden, the embassy’s charge d’affaires, made on Thursday in discussions on bilateral relations and the 2020 elections at the Charhar Institute, a Beijing-based Chinese think tank.

“Looking ahead, the US policies will continue to seek a results-oriented relationship that actually addresses long-standing issues in the relationship,” Forden said at the event which was also attended by Li Qiangmin, China’s consul general in Houston between 2014 to 2019.

The conciliatory tone from the embassy is a departure from the past year, when its posts have been very critical of Beijing’s policies and sometimes the nature of the Chinese government itself.

Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin has previously taken issue with the statements.

“The US embassy constantly publishes on its website articles smearing China,” he said in July.

“It is only too evident which [party] is engaged in interference, infiltration and confrontation,” he said, referring to Washington’s decision to shut down the Houston consulate amid claims of infiltration.

The Friday post also stressed the need for people-to-people exchanges with China, which the Trump administration has strained amid concerns that Chinese students and academics could be involved in spying.

“At the same time, the United States continues to value exchanges with the Chinese people and look for opportunities to partner on some of the world’s most challenging problems,” the post said.

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The statement was published as presidential nominee Joe Biden neared the 270 Electoral College votes needed to claim the presidency.

While the former vice-president is expected to be tough with China on technology, trade practices and human rights, he has also spelled out three areas in which cooperation with China is necessary: global warming, non-proliferation and global health security.

Symbolising hopes for better ties with the US, the institute gave Forden a painting called Endless Mountains and Rivers, a reference to an idiom from a Chinese poem that suggests the best could be expected after seemingly endless obstacles.

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