US Ambassador to China Terry Branstad yesterday defended plans to require Beijing’s diplomats to report contacts with some Americans and said that Washington is considering additional rules for employees of entities controlled by the Chinese Communist Party (CCP).
The change comes as the US, Australia and some other governments are looking at possible Chinese efforts to spy or gain influence in their countries, and follows years of complaints from US and other diplomats about controls on their ability to move around China and to meet with officials and members of the public.
Branstad said the rule is “very modest” and intended to win more access for US diplomats in China’s “closed system.”
He rejected Chinese criticism that the measure violates a global treaty on conditions for diplomats as “very outrageous.”
Chinese diplomats would be required to report contacts with US educators, researchers and local and state governments under the rule announced on Wednesday.
Branstad said by contrast, US diplomats face a more restrictive system that requires them to apply for permission for such contacts, which he said often is refused.
Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokeswoman Hua Chunying (華春瑩) said Beijing has a “positive attitude” toward cooperation with the US and expressed hope Branstad could clarify what restrictions he was talking about.
Branstad said US diplomats have been blocked from meeting with Chinese law enforcement and other officials and requests to visit universities have been refused.
He said US officials have yet to discuss the rule directly with Chinese authorities, but the Chinese embassy in Washington complained on its Twitter account that the rule violates the Vienna Convention and said China imposes no similar restrictions on US diplomats.
“I think the response on Twitter from the Chinese ambassador has been really outrageous,” Branstad said. “The truth is that we have a very open system and they have a very closed system.”
In other developments, Chinese Minister of National Defense General Wei Fenghe (魏鳳和) issued a stinging rebuke of the US at a defense forum in Beijing that drew defense ministers and officials from across Asia.
China was not fazed by sanctions, pressure and a “big stick policy,” he said in his opening remarks at the Xiangshan Forum.
China would not accept or be intimidated by such an approach, which he extended to “long-arm jurisdiction,” he said, using Beijing’s term for US sanctions on countries such as China, North Korea and Iran.
It is also not going to stop in its efforts toward “realizing the complete reunification of the motherland,” he said.
“China is the only big country in the world that has not yet achieved complete reunification,” he said. “It is something that nobody and that no force can stop.”
China wanted to promote peaceful cross-strait relations, but that it would never allow “Taiwan separatists to make reckless moves, and we will never sit by and watch outside forces ... interfere,” he said. “Engaging in separatism can only be a dead end.”
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