On July 25-26, Deputy Secretary of State Wendy Sherman met in China with China’s State Councilor and Foreign Minister Wang Yi and other CCP officials. According to a State Department readout, Sherman and Yi “had a frank and open discussion about a range of issues,” and “ways to set terms for responsible management of the U.S-China relationship.”
But as it has in times past, Chinese state-run media used this diplomatic meeting to propagandize against the United States while praising China. Newspapers like XinhuaNet, Global Times and China Daily dismissed the US’ diplomatic push as a mechanism to contain and subvert China and deflect away from the US’ own shortcomings. The Chinese state-run media also used the diplomatic meetings to portray the US as belligerent and China as a benevolent, harmonious actor.
Claim 1: The US is Using Diplomacy to Contain and Subvert China
Chinese media portrayed US’ diplomacy efforts as a way to contain and subvert China. According to Chinese State Councilor and Foreign Minister Wang Yi, as cited in XinhuaNet, the United States’ diplomatic effort was designed “to impede and disrupt China’s modernization drive.” A second XinhuaNet article stated that, according to Chinese Vice Foreign Minister Xie Feng, the United States is waging “a whole-of-government and whole-of-society campaign…to bring China down,” and that the US’ diplomatic rhetoric is “a thinly veiled attempt to contain and suppress China.” In a third XinhuaNet article, the editorial called for the US to “call…off its aggressive actions that grossly interfere with China’s internal affairs and hurt China’s interests.” That article further goes on to accuse the United States of trying to “control the destiny of others, or keep advantages in development all to itself,” as well trying to “lecture China or strong-arm Beijing into giving up its legitimate rights to development.”
Claim 2: Pressuring China is a Way That the US Deflects from its Own Domestic Issues
Chinese media also claim that any diplomatic pressure placed on China on human rights or otherwise is merely a deflection from the US’ own domestic problems. Chinese Vice Foreign Minister Xie Feng, as reported by XinhuaNet, stated that
The hope may be that by demonizing China, the United States could somehow shift domestic public discontent over political, economic and social issues and blame China for its own structural problems…It is as if when China’s development is contained, all U.S. domestic and external challenges would go away, and America would become great again and Pax Americana would continue to go on.
Feng further stated that “[t]he United States is in no position to lecture China on democracy and human rights…urging the United States to address its own human rights issues first,” according to another XinhuaNet article. Feng also mentioned that the United States’ “genocide against Native Americans,” its 620,000 deaths due to COVID-19, and “the frequent U.S. military action and the wars caused by the United States” make it unfit to speak about human rights.
Claim 3: The United States is Adversarial
Chinese media used the diplomatic talks to paint the United States as adversarial. Chinese State Councilor and Foreign Minister Wang Yi called for the US to “give up its arrogance and bias and stop lecturing others,” according to Global Times, and to “drop arrogance and prejudice and steer back to a rational and pragmatic China policy,” according to XinhuaNet. According to XinhuaNet, the United States views China as an “imagined enemy” with a “highly misguided mindset and dangerous policy.” Chinese Vice Foreign Minister Xie Feng, according to XinhuaNet, stated that “[t]he United States is the ‘inventor and patent and intellectual property owner’ of coercive diplomacy.” Feng called the “real emphasis” of US policy toward China as “adversarial,” while “the collaborative aspect is just an expediency, and the competitive aspect is a narrative trap,” according to China Daily.
Lü Xiang, a research fellow at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences in Beijing, according to the Global Times, found the State Department’s “persistent anti-China lobbying” as “pesky and annoying” and “quite creepy.” In another Global Times article, Yi criticized the US for “always put[ting] pressure on others with its self-claimed strengths in a condescending manner.”
Claim 4: China Seeks Peace and Harmony
Chinese media also commonly portrayed China as conciliatory in the diplomatic talks, as a foil for the adversarial United States. Chinese Vice Foreign Minister Xie Feng, according to XinhuaNet, stated that “[t]he Chinese people cherish peace,” that “China hopes to build is a new type of international relations featuring mutual respect, equality, justice and win-win cooperation, and a community with a shared future for mankind,” and that “China wants to work with the United States to seek common ground while shelving the differences.” The article also stated that, according to Feng, “China has never coerced another country,” while “[i]t is the United States who has engaged in…interference in other countries’ internal affairs.”
Xiang stated that “China-US relations were close to a collapse under the Trump administration but China has acted in goodwill to stabilize the foundations of the relationship,” according to Global Times. Yi stated that “China’s growth aims to seek happiness for Chinese people, not to challenge the US or take their place,” according to that same article.
Diao Daming, an associate professor of US studies at the School of International Studies of Renmin University of China, stated that “China is still honoring the tradition of ‘dialogue is better than confrontation,’ and this manifests China’s great sense of duty in securing global prosperity and stability by tackling ties with the US,” according to China Daily.
Once again, Chinese state-run media is engaging in a propaganda campaign to cast the United States as a malevolent actor, this time as a bad faith actor in negotiations with China. Like its propaganda campaigns fighting the “lab leak” theory, supporting China’s exportation of COVID-19 vaccine, denying human rights violations against the Uyghurs and blaming the US for the protests in Cuba, China is using state-run media to improve its reputation abroad and malign the United States.
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