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19 Mar, 2021 05:35

Chinese FM invites Russian counterpart Lavrov to Beijing after talks with US, as pressure from Washington propels closer ties

Chinese FM invites Russian counterpart Lavrov to Beijing after talks with US, as pressure from Washington propels closer ties

China has extended an invitation to Russia’s top diplomat, Sergey Lavrov, to meet in Beijing following a round of talks with the US, illustrating closer ties between the two powers as both face increasing pressure from Washington.

Lavrov accepted the invitation from Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi on Thursday, according to a brief press release issued by Beijing, and is now slated to visit the Chinese capital between March 22 and 23. 

The offer comes as top officials in the Joe Biden administration, namely Secretary of State Tony Blinken and National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan, meet with their Chinese counterparts in Anchorage, Alaska for a round of talks. The summit got off to a fiery start on Thursday, with Blinken levying a series of charges at China in his opening remarks, alleging “economic coercion” of US allies, domestic rights abuses, and undermining the “rules based order.”

Beijing’s top diplomat, Yang Jiechi, soon hit back, launching into a 15-minute monologue denouncing the US for using “its military force and financial hegemony to carry out long arm jurisdiction and suppress other countries,” among other criticisms.

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The testy exchange followed a new round of American sanctions on 24 officials in China and Hong Kong earlier this week, as well as a harsh joint statement from Blinken and his Japanese peers, also accusing the People’s Republic of coercion while backing Tokyo’s claim to the disputed Senkaku Islands, known in China as the Diaoyu Islands. 

As the Biden administration pursues many of the same bellicose China policies seen under former President Donald Trump, it has similarly maintained much of its predecessor’s hostile stance toward Moscow, slapping the country with sanctions earlier this month over the alleged poisoning of opposition figure Alexey Navalny. The White House said it is mulling yet another round of penalties earlier this week, pointing to new claims of election meddling in the 2020 presidential race outlined in a largely evidence-free intelligence assessment released on Tuesday.

Biden took his rhetoric to another level during a recent interview with ABC News, agreeing with pundit George Stephanopoulos after he dubbed Russian President Vladimir Putin a “killer.” Putin responded with an invitation to a live, public debate, which was ruled out for now by the Biden team, citing a “busy” schedule.

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In an interview with Interfax earlier this month, Beijing’s ambassador to Moscow, Zhang Hanhui, highlighted a “wide range of common interests” between the two powers, saying China is “ready to maintain interaction with the Russian side in the sphere of relations between our countries and the United States.” He also lamented that Sino-US relations had “deviated from the right path,” calling on Washington to “correct [its] mistakes” and “learn to peacefully coexist with countries with different histories, cultures and systems.”

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