China's top diplomat went to Washington yesterday to meet with Secretary of State John Kerry to highlight cooperation between the United States and China, but ended up exposing different political objectives, especially in regards to Hong Kong.
Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi, after a visit at the U.N. General Assembly last week, warned the United States and other foreign countries not to intervene in its domestic affairs. He responded to comments from the United States in regards to pro-democracy protests in Hong Kong.
"Hong Kong affairs are China's internal affairs," Yi said. "All countries should respect China's sovereignty."
Kerry repeated calls from the U.S. for China's government to exercise restraint, let the protesters freely express their views, and respect the rule of law there.
"We believe an open society with the highest possible degree of autonomy, governed by the rule of law, is essential for Hong Kong's stability and prosperity," Kerry said.
According to an Associated Press article posted in the Fresno Bee, this clash of ideas between the U.S. and China showed how much both countries differed on issues such as democracy, human rights and territorial disputes with China's neighbors in Asia. However, they have cooperated in other areas like climate change.
"The common interests between us are far greater than our differences," Yi said.
Protesters in Hong Kong, who are mostly students, have demanded full democracy. They are reacting to a Chinese government decision last month that stated it would begin vetting candidates for Hong Kong's leadership elections, which are scheduled for 2017.
Mass crowds of protesters have rallied since last week, and protest leaders indicate that they might move forward with occupying several government buildings if the current chief does not step down. Yi expressed his confidence and support for the Hong Kong government, adding that no country would tolerate "illegal acts that violate public order."
"We believe that the Hong Kong special administrative region's government has the capability to properly handle the current situation in accordance with the law," Yi said.
According to an article from Reuters posted in the Huffington Post, any U.S. response to the Hong Kong protests would be considered a tricky balancing act. This is because the economies of both the U.S. and China (since the Tiananmen crackdown in 1989) have become intertwined, which had transformed Beijing into a global economic powerhouse.
The original intent of the talks between Kerry and Yi was to prepare for President Obama's visit to China next month. Obama has previously stated that U.S. attention will increasingly "pivot" to Asia.