Premier Li says China, US should handle differences as their top diplomats set to meet next week

K J M Varma
·4-min read

Beijing, Mar 11 (PTI) Chinese Premier Li Keqiang on Thursday sought to play down China's growing discord with the US, saying the two countries should handle differences as their top diplomats are set to meet next week to hold their first strategic dialogue after President Joe Biden took charge in January.

Addressing his annual press conference at the end of a six-day session of China’s legislature, the National People's Congress (NPC), Li avoided references to the first summit meeting of Quad countries involving India, the US, Australian and Japan and also did not respond to Washington's allegations of committing genocide against Uygur Muslims in Xinjiang.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi, US President Joe Biden, Australian Prime Minister, Scott Morrison and his Japanese counterpart Yoshihide Suga will hold virtual summit on Friday, the first conclave of the top leaders of the Quadrilateral alliance, which was often projected by the Chinese official media as an alliance against China’s rise.

The Chinese Foreign Ministry announced on Thursday that Yang Jiechi, a member of the Political Bureau of the ruling Communist Party of China (CPC) and Chinese State Councillor, and Foreign Minister Wang Yi will hold strategic dialogue with US Secretary of State Antony Blinken as well its National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan in Alaska on March 18-19.

This is the first direct dialogue between the two countries after Biden succeeded Donald Trump, who pursued a tough policy towards Beijing. Ties between the world's top two economies touched a new low under Trump and Biden so far belied Beijing’s expectations softening the stand by following most of his predecessor's policies.

In his virtual press conference, Premier Li said China-US ties in the past 40 years have gone through some twists and turns but have kept moving forward by overcoming obstacles because the relationship is keeping up with the trend of 'the world development and the fundamental interests of both the countries'.

'We hope the two countries will act in the spirit of the phone conversation between President Xi Jinping and President Biden,' he said, referring to last month’s two-hour telephone talks between the two leaders.

'We hope that the two sides will respect each other’s core interests, major concerns and refrain from interfering in each other’s internal affairs and strive for the sustained and healthy development of China-US ties in keeping with the principle of no conflict, no confrontation, mutual respect and win-win cooperation,” he said.

Such an approach is in the interest of people of both the countries and it is also what the international community expects to see, he said, adding that two countries stand to gain in cooperation and lose in confrontation.

On differences, Li said China and the US are different in historical background, cultural heritage, stage of development and social systems.

'Differences and disagreements are hardly avoidable and some could be quite acute. But what matters most importantly is how these differences and disagreements are handled. The Chinese and American people have the wisdom and capability to properly manage these issues,' he said.

'We believe in dialogue and exchanges based on mutual respect and equality. We hope to see the dialogue between the two countries in multiple areas and at various levels. Even if we cannot work out anything soon such an exchange of views will help to boost trust and dispel misgivings. It will also help to better manage and mitigate differences,” he said.

Despite differences, Li said the two countries have common interests. 'There are many areas where the two countries can cooperate with each other,' he said.

Last year, China-US trade bucked the trend and went up by 8 per cent over the previous year, he said, without referring to the trade war launched by Trump to bring down the trade deficit between the two countries.

'The two countries need to put more energy and focus on their common ground and expand converging interests,' he said.

'Both the countries are the permanent members of the UNSC and hence shoulder important responsibility for promoting and maintaining world peace and stability and promoting global prosperity and progress. We hope that China-US relationship will be future-oriented, overcome obstacles and move in a positive direction,' he said. PTI KJV ZH AKJ ZH ZH