China Slams ‘Sinister’ U.S. Over Hong Kong, Digital Trade Deal

Chinese, U.S., and Hong Kong flags. (Photographer: Nelson Ching/Bloomberg News)

China Slams ‘Sinister’ U.S. Over Hong Kong, Digital Trade Deal

China accused the U.S. of waging a “sinister” campaign to halt its rise, as the Biden administration moved to counter Beijing’s growing global trade influence and domestic political crackdowns.

Chinese state media including the China Daily newspaper dismissed a possible U.S.-led digital trade agreement as a bid to defend American power in the Asia-Pacific region. Separately, the Chinese Foreign Ministry denounced a planned White House warning to American businesses in Hong Kong as an effort to mislead companies and malign the national security law that Beijing imposed on the Asian financial center last year.

“The U.S. confuses black and white and right and wrong, wantonly discredits the national security law and Hong Kong’s business environment, and attempts to mislead American and international businesses in Hong Kong,” the ministry’s Hong Kong branch said Wednesday. “Its sinister intention of playing the ‘Hong Kong card’ to curb China’s development is clear.”

The responses illustrate Beijing’s continued frustration with the U.S., as President Joe Biden implements a China strategy that extends and deepens his predecessor’s confrontational approach. The two sides are still trading barbs over data, security and human rights, even as their senior officials carry out talks on issues such as trade, climate change and Iran’s nuclear program.

U.S. Deputy Secretary of State Wendy Sherman is expected to visit China as part of a trip to the region next month, a person familiar with the matter said Tuesday. The South China Morning Post newspaper separately reported Wednesday that Sherman would meet with Vice Foreign Minister Xie Feng in Tianjin and discuss a possible meeting between Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi.

Still, China has continued to lash out at the U.S. in recent months, especially over what it views as foreign interference in its domestic affairs. The U.S. has led a loose coalition of mainly Western countries criticizing China’s efforts to crack down on political minorities in the predominately Muslim region of Xinjiang and the former British colony of Hong Kong.

The White House is preparing to warn American companies this week of the increasing risks of operating in Hong Kong, three people familiar with the matter said Tuesday. Those risks include the Chinese government’s ability to gain access to data that foreign companies store in Hong Kong, according to two of those people.

Beijing imposed the sweeping national security law -- which bars subversion, terrorism, secession and foreign collusion -- on Hong Kong last year following unprecedented and sometimes-violent democracy protests in the city. The law, which officials have used to jail democracy activists and much of the formal political opposition, has frayed ties between the finance hub and many western nations, including the U.S.

“Relevant laws in Hong Kong clearly protect the rights and interests of foreign investors,” Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian told a regular news briefing Wednesday in Beijing. “Since the implementation of the national security law, Hong Kong society has returned to normal and the ‘Pearl of the Orient’ has become even shinier. The so-called alert is typical political manipulation and double standards.”

Meanwhile, the China Daily rejected a potential U.S. digital trade deal involving Pacific nations as “shackles restricting trade and their freedom of cooperation.” The English-language newspaper said the world’s two largest economies cannot decouple and it was “therefore absurd for it to try to force other countries to do that without finding them new sources of goods, services and capital to fill the vacuum caused by it forcing them to sever ties with China.”

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