China hopes Quad meet will be ‘conducive to peace’

Top Chinese, U.S. officials may meet next week in Alaska for first high-level talks with new administration

March 10, 2021 10:10 pm | Updated March 12, 2021 10:56 pm IST

Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi speaking at a remote video press conference held on the sidelines of the annual meeting of China's National People's Congress (NPC) in Beijing on March 7, 2021.

Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi speaking at a remote video press conference held on the sidelines of the annual meeting of China's National People's Congress (NPC) in Beijing on March 7, 2021.

China’s Foreign Ministry said Beijing hoped Friday’s first- ever summit of the leaders of the Quad framework — India, Australia, Japan and the U.S. — would be “conducive” to regional peace and stability “rather than the opposite”.

The comments from Beijing on Wednesday came days after China’s Foreign Minister Wang Yi, in his annual press conference on March 7, said China was “open-minded to explore and deepen cooperation with the U.S.” under the Biden administration after four turbulent years, and hoped “the U.S. will move in the same direction and remove all its unreasonable restrictions on bilateral cooperation as early as possible, not create new obstacles”.

Without mentioning the Quad, Mr. Wang hit out at what he called “building small circles in the name of multilateralism”, which was “in fact 'group politics’.” “Multilateralism with one's own interests taking precedence is still unilateral thinking,” he said. “'Selective multilateralism’ is not the right choice.”

Friday’s virtual summit will be attended by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, President Joe Biden, Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga and Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison.

Asked about the summit, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Zhao Lijian said China “believes that any regional cooperation architecture should follow the principle of peaceful development and win-win cooperation, which is the prevailing trend of the times”. “We hope the relevant countries will keep in mind the common interests of the regional countries, uphold the principles of openness, inclusiveness and win-win cooperation, and do things that are conducive to regional peace stability and prosperity, rather than the opposite,” he said.

High-level meeting

The U.S. and China, meanwhile, are preparing for the highest level face-to-face official meeting following the U.S. election, which reports said could take place as early as next week. Mr. Biden and Chinese President Xi Jinping spoke for two hours on February 11, and a Chinese delegation led by the top foreign policy official, Yang Jiechi, who is a member of the Politburo and director of the Central Committee’s Foreign Affairs Commission, may travel to Alaska, the South China Morning Post reported. He may be accompanied by Mr. Wang, the Foreign Minister, and meet with their counterparts, Secretary of State Antony Blinken and National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan.

The report noted the selection of the two topmost Chinese officials for the meeting “would reflect the importance Beijing puts on rebuilding China-U.S. ties” and the meeting in Alaska would be at “the geographical halfway point for the two sides, away from the global media’s glare”.

On reports that the four Quad countries were exploring coordination in their supply of vaccines to countries in the region, Mr. Zhao, the Foreign Ministry spokesperson, said China “is a steadfast advocate of equitable vaccine distribution”. “We have joined COVAX [the World Health Organization-backed global initiative] under which China has undertaken to provide an initial 10 million doses for emergency use in developing countries,” he said. “So far, China has donated or is donating COVID-19 vaccines to 69 developing countries in urgent need and is exporting vaccines to 43 countries... Now a number of vaccines are available around the world. It up to each country to decide to choose. Whether it is a Chinese vaccine or not, it is a good vaccine as long as it is safe and effective. China opposes vaccine nationalism. We reject any vaccine divide or any attempt to politicise vaccine cooperation.”

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