Quad meet: China says ‘exclusive blocs’ should not ‘target third party’

Exchanges and cooperation between nations should contribute to mutual understanding and trust among nations, says Foreign Ministry spokesperson Zhao Lijian

China said on Friday, in a statement coming hours before the first summit of the leaders of the Quad framework – India, United States, Japan and Australia – that cooperation between nations should not “target or damage interests of a third party” and countries should not “pursue exclusive blocs”.

“Exchanges and cooperation between nations should contribute to mutual understanding and trust among nations,” Foreign Ministry spokesperson Zhao Lijian said in response to a question about the Quad virtual summit, “rather than target a third party or damage interests of a third party.”

“We hope that relevant countries uphold the principles of openness, inclusiveness and win-win results, refrain from pursuing exclusive blocs, and do things that are conducive to regional peace and stability,” he said.

The first Quad leaders’ meet is being closely followed in China and covered by the State media, which has broadly framed it as a U.S.-led effort aimed at “containing” China. At the same time, Chinese experts have sought to play down the significance of the meet.

Speaking to State broadcaster China Global Television Network, former People’s Liberation Army Senior Colonel Zhou Bo, a frequent commentator on strategic affairs, said “China should not take it too seriously.”

“I can give you my comment on the Quad in one sentence,” he told the channel. “None of the four countries would like to sacrifice its own interests [with regard to China] for the interests of the other three countries,” he said, referring to their different relationships with China, particularly on trade.

“If you ask all four, are you against China or is this an anti-China club, they say no,” he said. “My conclusion is the Quad is definitely established because of China, although they would not say that it is against China. But if you look at this club as a military alliance, India would totally deny that. [The Quad] is still developing and coming into shape, but it is difficult for them to decide which way it will go, be it military or economic.”

On the meeting between the top diplomats of the U.S. and China set to be held in Alaska on March 18 – Yang Jiechi, a member of the Politburo and director of the Central Committee’s Foreign Affairs Commission, and Foreign Minister Wang Yi will travel for talks with Secretary of State Antony Blinken and National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan – Mr. Zhao, the Foreign Ministry spokesperson, termed the meet “a high-level strategic dialogue”. This was in contrast to Mr. Blinken’s comments that the meet would not be the start of a strategic dialogue and any following engagement with China would only depend on “tangible” outcomes.

China has said it wants a reset with the new Biden administration, but has laid the blame for the past four years of strained ties at the door of Washington. The Biden administration, in statements so far, has suggested it might continue at least some of the previous administration’s policies with respect to China, including on trade. Mr. Blinken in a March 3 speech described ties with China as “the biggest geopolitical test”.

Mr. Zhao said “China’s position on China-US relations is clear.” “We ask the U.S. to view China and China-US relations in an objective and rational manner, reject the Cold-War and zero-sum game mentality, respect China’s sovereignty, security and development interests, and stop interfering in China’s internal affairs,” he said. “It should follow the spirit of the phone call between the Chinese and U.S. presidents, focus on cooperation, manage differences, and bring the China-US relationship back to the right track of sound and steady development,” he added, referring to the February 11 call between Joe Biden and Xi Jinping.

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