Beijing and Washington should ‘hit pause’ on criticism, says ex-US ambassador, East Asia News & Top Stories

green and white leafed plantsBOAO – A former US ambassador to China on Monday (April 19) urged Washington and Beijing to “hit the pause button” on their critical statements about each other while taking more action to display good faith and respect in order to rebuild their relationship.

The fiery rhetoric at the recent meeting in Anchorage between top foreign affairs officials on both sides was a mistake, Ambassador Max Baucus told a panel virtually at the Boao Forum in Hainan, adding that “public criticisms cause more problems than they solve”.

“There clearly are issues between our two countries, they should be discussed more privately than publicly,” he said.

Mr Baucus, who served as ambassador from 2014 to 2017, also called on the US to rethink its sanctions policy, which he said had very little impact on the intended target and had a tendency to backfire.

“In many cases, I think President Xi Jinping does tend to care too much about the sanctions, whether its on Hong Kong, Xinjiang or wherever.

“They have very little effect and in fact they are counterproductive.”

The world’s top two economies have been locked in confrontation over a range of issues from trade to technology. Washington has sanctioned Chinese officials for human rights abuses in Xinjiang and Hong Kong, and has blacklisted a number of Chinese tech companies for what it says are threats to national security.

Leaders on each side and Chinese media need to stop fanning the flames of nationalism in both countries, Mr Baucus said, so that leaders have more room to manoeuvre in negotiations.

Meanwhile, former Chinese ambassador to the US Zhou Wenzhong called on Washington to respect China’s sovereignty, calling the issue of Taiwan a “red line” that should not be crossed.

The US has recently upgraded its relationship with Taiwan, allowing officials to openly interact with their Taiwanese counterparts. Beijing sees the self-ruling island as part of its territory awaiting reunification.

“(The US) said that China need to be a responsible stakeholder, so I hope that the US can be that too,” Mr Zhou said at the same session.

Professor Kishore Mahbubani, a Distinguished Fellow at the National University of Singapore’s Asia Research Institute, said international organisations like the UN and World Health Organisation need to be made relevant again, which begins with more mandatory member contributions.

This would help return the world to the post-World War II order started by the US based on a system around the UN.

Others who spoke at the session include former President of the Philippines Gloria Arroyo, former Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd, former Italian Prime Minister Enrico Letta and Harvard University Distinguished Service Professor Emeritus Joseph Nye.

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