Beijing has urged US business groups with interests in China to “speak out” and lobby the US government in its defence, warning that as bilateral relations deteriorate they cannot make money “in silence”.
The vice-foreign minister Xie Feng, in charge of managing China’s relationship with the US, also urged against political boycotts of the upcoming Beijing Winter Olympics, saying it harms the interests of athletes and was “unpopular”.
Key business groups including the American Chamber of Commerce in Shanghai and the US-China Business Council, met Xie at a virtual forum on Tuesday, according to a transcript of his address.
In his address, published by the ministry of foreign affairs, Xie urged the US business representatives to “speak up and speak out, and push the US government to pursue a rational and pragmatic policy towards China, stop conducting wars in trade, industry and technology, and stop creating … ideological and geopolitical confrontations and conflicts”.
The meeting’s warning added to letters sent by China’s embassy in Washington directly to US businesses last month, making similar threats and urging them to lobby against US bills that would affect Chinese interests.
Xie praised the recent meeting between the US president, Joe Biden, and China’s leader, Xi Jinping, in seeking to restore the relationship, and said that when bilateral relations were good, economic and trade cooperation was smoother.
“It’s good to enjoy the shade under the big tree,” he said. “Conversely, if the relations between the two countries deteriorate, the business community cannot ‘make a fortune in silence’.
“We hope that our friends in the business community will clearly oppose the politicisation of economic and trade issues and the abuse of the concept of national security, push the Biden administration to lift the tariffs imposed on China, stop the suppression and sanctions against Chinese enterprises and provide a level playing field for enterprises of both countries.”
The US is among several countries in recent years to issue sanctions against the Chinese government, officials and entities in response to human rights abuses against Uyghurs in Xinjiang and other minorities, the crackdown on Hong Kong and its growing regional aggression.
Beijing has rejected claims it is abusing human rights. Several world governments and human rights groups have declared the systematic oppression of Uyghurs in Xinjiang to be a genocide, or crimes against humanity. Beijing has also been sanctioned over its intervention in Hong Kong and crackdown in Tibet, and criticised for its aggression towards Taiwan.
However, Xie told the Americans these issues were all areas where China “has no room for compromise”.
The meeting came as China seeks to head off growing calls for boycotts of the February Winter Olympics. Biden has confirmed the White House is considering a diplomatic boycott of the Games over China’s human rights abuses.
Xie said: “Boycotting the Olympics for political reasons harms the interests of athletes, violates the common ideals and pursuits of the international community, and is unpopular.”