Monday July 22, 2024

US ambassador says Beijing making US-China exchanges ‘impossible’

June 26, 2024
Ambassador Nicholas Burns seen in this undated image. — AFP/file
Ambassador Nicholas Burns seen in this undated image. — AFP/file 

Beijing, June 25, 2024 (AFP) -The US ambassador to China has accused Beijing of making it “impossible” to boost ties between ordinary Chinese and Americans in a strongly worded interview published in the Wall Street Journal on Tuesday.

China and the United States have tussled in recent years over a range of issues from trade to technology, human rights and Russia´s war in Ukraine.

Relations stabilised somewhat after President Joe Biden met his Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping in San Francisco last year, but tensions persist between the world´s two largest economies.

Ambassador Nicholas Burns told the Journal that Beijing was trying to scupper engagement between Chinese and American citizens, intimidating Chinese participants in embassy events and fuelling anti-American fervour online.

“They say they´re in favor of reconnecting our two populations, but they´re taking dramatic steps to make it impossible,” Burns told the paper.

He said Chinese officials had pressured citizens not to attend 61 public events organised by the embassy since November, and tried to intimidate those who did, including with late-night interrogations at their homes.

In one case, he and other US diplomats said, a venue cited a power outage for abruptly cancelling an embassy concert, only to then host other events on the nights directly before and after. “This is not just episodic. This is routine. This is nearly every public event,” he said.

Burns also said he was “not satisfied” with the level of transparency around the motives of a man who stabbed four American college instructors in a northeastern Chinese park this month. He expressed concerns about “very aggressive Chinese government... efforts to denigrate America, to tell a distorted story about American society, American history, American policy”.

“It happens every day on all the networks available to the government here, and there´s a high degree of anti-Americanism online,” Burns said. China´s government did not respond to an AFP request for comment. Beijing often complains that Washington curbs the movements of its US-based diplomats and harshly interrogates or deports some Chinese holders of valid US visas.