Frustrated China: Trump ‘Playing Petty Tricks’ with Friendly Talks, Hostile Actions

THIERRY CHARLIER/AFP/Getty Images
THIERRY CHARLIER/AFP/Getty Images

China’s state-run Global Times newspaper, a mouthpiece for the more aggressive strain of Communist Party propaganda, published an outraged column on Thursday protesting that President Donald Trump’s diplomatic overtures do not match his strong stance against Chinese human right abuses.

The Times was reacting to Trump signing the Uyghur Human Rights Policy Act on Wednesday, a law that provides for sanctioning Chinese officials involved in the enslavement, torture, and killing of ethnic Uyghurs and other Muslim minorities in China. The law also provides safeguards for Uyghur-Americans harassed and threatened by Chinese agents and punitive measures against domestic companies that benefit from Uyghur slave labor.

China has kept between 1 million to 3 million Uyghurs, Kazakhs, Kyrgyz people, and other ethnic and religious minorities trapped in concentration camps since at least 2018. China claims they are “vocational training centers” for underprivileged people, though survivors have testified to atrocities occurring in them such as forced labor, rape, forced sterilization, murder, and testing for live organ harvesting.

Trump signed the Act shortly after Secretary of State Mike Pompeo met with Chinese Politburo member Yang Jiechi in Hawaii for what Beijing otherwise described as “constructive” talks. The two sides reached no official consensus on any issue.

“This is the first face to face discussions between top Chinese and US diplomats following suspended talks,” the Global Times noted. “But as the Hawaii meeting was being held, Trump also signed the Uygur bill on Wednesday, claiming to protect human rights in Northwest China’s Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region.”

“The U.S. has always been good at playing petty tricks. By playing these cards, Washington attempts to exert more pressure on Beijing in a hope to force the latter to make concession during bilateral talks,” the newspaper asserted, claiming Trump’s administration was concerned it would “appear weak on Beijing.”

“If the US keeps playing petty tricks during bilateral talks, China-US cooperation will only be limited to sitting down and moving lips,” the newspaper contended. “In this sense, the US will have to stop dreaming that China will make substantial moves to cooperate.”

The Global Times warned the Trump administration to stop “playing tough” and match its apparent desire for dialogue.

In a separate column citing Communist Party-approved “experts,” the newspaper concluded that dialogue with the Trump administration, while apparently progressing towards tolerance of China’s human rights abuses, did not mean America would “change its tough policies toward China.”

One of the “experts” cited, identified as Jia Chunyang, complained that the American policies were insufficiently friendly to Beijing and Americans “fight while seeking cooperation when it fits their interests.”

“Signing the bill on the same day the bilateral talks take place shows that the U.S. wants to send a signal to China that it will continue putting pressure on China on issues of human rights and religious freedom,” Jia reportedly said. “These sinister tricks make us doubt its sincerity in seeking to improve China-US ties and will also affect cooperation in other fields.”

The complaints recall similar frustration among North Korean officials, who for years entertained talks with Washington with the expectation that Trump would lift sanctions on the repressive communist country. In 2017, Trump rallied the United Nations Security Council to agree to unprecedentedly stern sanctions on Pyongyang in response to its latest nuclear test, getting even North Korea’s closest ally China to agree. The sanctions remain in place, through two historic meetings between Trump and dictator Kim Jong-un.

“The dialogue touted by the U.S. is, in essence, nothing but a foolish trick hatched to keep the DPRK [North Korea] bound to dialogue and use it in favor of the political situation and election in the U.S.,” Ri Thae Song, North Korea’s vice foreign minister for American affairs, said in a statement in December, threatening a “Christmas gift” to America that never arrived.

While echoing complaints from North Korea that the Trump administration continues to take a firm stand against communist regimes, the Global Times outbursts followed a seemingly opposing portrait of foreign affairs in the White House published in the Washington Post on Wednesday. Citing excerpts from a “tell-all” book written by former National Security Advisor John Bolton, the newspaper claimed that Trump had not merely been exceedingly friendly with Chinese dictator Xi Jinping, but privately supported the construction of Uyghur concentration camps, a claim that Trump and multiple members of his administration have denied.

The Trump administration has taken no known actions in defense of the camps. Prior to the alleged incident in which Bolton claims Trump supported the camps, the president had already publicly condemned them. Neither Chinese state media nor government officials appear pleased with Trump’s actions regarding the camps, particularly the newly minted sanctions law.

“This so-called Act deliberately denigrates the human rights conditions in China’s Xinjiang, viciously attacks the Chinese government’s Xinjiang policy, blatantly violates international law and basic norms governing international relations, and grossly interferes in China’s internal affairs,” an outraged Foreign Ministry spokesman fumed during his regular press briefing on Thursday. “The Chinese government and people express strong indignation and firm opposition to this.”

The spokesman, Zhao Lijian – responsible for the unsubstantiated claim that the U.S. Army caused the Chinese coronavirus pandemic – claimed the Trump administration had the “ill intention” of helping to “sow discord among the ethnic g groups in China.”

Follow Frances Martel on Facebook and Twitter.

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