China urged cooperation with Joe Biden’s administration and said it hoped new US officials would make their own judgments on Xinjiang, after outgoing Secretary of State Michael Pompeo called Beijing’s crackdown in the region “genocide.”
“We hope the new US administration will work together with China, with mutual respect, properly handle differences and conduct more win-win cooperation in more sectors,” Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying told a daily briefing on Wednesday.
“We always believe China US relations are important and keeping a steady progress in our relationship is in line with our interests and that of the international community,” Hua said.
Pompeo’s comments about China’s actions against Uighur Muslims and other minorities in Xinjiang marked an escalation in tensions — and were quickly endorsed by Biden’s nominee for secretary of state, Antony Blinken. Hua sidestepped an opportunity to directly criticize Blinken on Wednesday after being asked about his comments, saying that she hoped “the new US administration can have their own reasonable, cool minded judgment on Xinjiang issues, among others.”
The US last week barred entry of all cotton products and tomatoes from Xinjiang, prompting protests from Beijing and new vows to defend its companies. China has maintained that it is fighting separatism and extremism in the region, where the United Nations has estimated up to 1 million Uighurs may be held in camps.
“We oppose any allegations or accusations with the presumption of guilt,” Hua said. “We welcome and hope to have communication on the basis of equality and mutual trust. But we will never hesitate to uphold our own interests, sovereignty, and development interests.”
As Biden takes office, the U.S. and China face a relationship upended during the Trump era by battles on fronts ranging from Xinjiang to trade and the early handling of the coronavirus — and much of the foreign policy scrutiny on the incoming administration has focused on how it might approach China. Biden’s national security team is expected to leave much of Trump’s China policy in place for a period of time as it handles domestic crises, including Covid-19, and works with allies to build a more multilateral strategy to counter Beijing.
China welcomed the US back to the Paris accord and promised to make greater contributions to the international climate response. Biden has said he will petition to rejoin the agreement on his first day in office, after Trump officially ended US participation in the global pact in November.