Chinese leader Xi Jinping met with a bipartisan delegation of U.S. senators in Beijing on Monday, the first exchange with American lawmakers in nearly a decade, sending a signal that the communist regime wants to engage with Washington in the face of a stalling economy.
The six-member delegation, led by Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) and Sen. Mike Crapo (R-Idaho), is on the third day of their Asia trip, which also includes stops in Japan and South Korea.
In the opening remarks, Mr. Schumer urged Mr. Xi to support Israel, arguing that Beijing showed “no sympathy” to the nation under attack by Hamas terrorists over the weekend. On Sunday, China’s foreign ministry issued a statement on the Israel–Hamas War, calling on “relevant parties” to “immediately end the hostilities.” However, China’s statement did not mention Hamas.
“The ongoing events in Israel over the last few days are nothing short of horrific. I urge you and the Chinese people to stand with the Israeli people and condemn the cowardly and vicious attacks,” Mr. Schumer said.
“I say this with respect, but I was disappointed by the foreign minister’s statement that showed no sympathy or support for the Israeli people during these troubled times,” he added.
Since Hamas launched its attack on Saturday, the Chinese regime has been under close scrutiny for its ties to the Palestinian terrorist group.
“#Hamas is #Iran’s proxy, and #Iran is #China’s proxy. We need to hold China responsible for the attacks its proxies are carrying out on #Israel,” Gordon Chang, author of the book “The Coming Collapse of China,” wrote on X, formerly known as Twitter, on Oct. 8.
“The (Iranian) regime arming Hamas is the same one arming war criminal Putin. The CCP helps both. This is the rule of gun posse,” Rep. Joe Wilson (R-S.C.) posted on X on Oct. 7.
Monday’s meeting between Mr. Xi and the U.S. senators took place at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing, where the Chinese leader hosted Secretary of State Antony Blinken in June.
As tensions mount, the U.S. administration under President Joe Biden is seeking to repair the ties with communist China and to avoid being tipped into conflict. President Biden has sent four cabinet officials to Beijing in the summer.
On Sept. 18, Mr. Blinken held talks China’s Vice Premier Han Zheng on the sideline of the United Nations General Assembly in New York. The conversation came on the heel of an unscheduled meeting between President Biden’s national security advisor, Jake Sullivan, and China’s top diplomat Wang Yi in Malta.
These talks were expected to lay the groundwork for a meeting between U.S. President Biden Joe and Mr. Xi at the sideline of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) summit in San Francisco next month.
On Monday, Mr. Xi told U.S. lawmakers that there are “1,000 reasons to improve China-U.S. relations and not a single reason to ruin them.”
But it’s still unclear whether he would be willing to travel to the United States.
Mr. Xi skipped this year’s Group of 20 summit in New Delhi. Beijing didn’t offer any explanation for the unusual move. Since taking office in 2012, Mr. Xi has never missed the annual gathering of world leaders.
Adding to the opacity of the regime’s decision-making, Mr. Xi has announced several abrupt changes to the top leadership in recent months. Mr. Xi removed his handpicked foreign minister, Qin Gang, from the post in July, just seven months after he gave Mr. Qin the job. Chinese Defense Minister Li Shangfu has disappeared from public view since September, and reports suggest that he has been placed under investigation.
‘A Level Playing Field’
Aside from meeting Mr. Xi, the senators also met with China’s foreign minister Wang Yi and China’s top legislator Zhao Leji on Monday.
Mr. Schumer arrived in China on Saturday along with five other senators. Hours after their arrival, Mr. Schumer met with Shanghai’s Communist Party boss Chen Jining, telling him that the U.S. firms had not been treated fairly in China and the senator would like to see a level playing field in economic competition between the two sides.
“China must also provide a level playing field for American companies and workers. Many Americans, most Americans, including our delegation, do not believe we have that fairness now,” Ｍr. Schumer told Mr. Wang during their meeting.
The senators’ trip came as the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) is struggling to revive its faltering economy, a key factor that analysts say prompted Beijing to engage with Washington.
“China’s current economic situation is not good. That’s why China appears to be making lots of efforts to restore relations with the United States,” Ding Shuh-fan, an expert on China’s security policy and international relations at National Chengchi University in Taiwan, told The Epoch Times after the senators arrived in China.
The authorities stopped updating data on youth unemployment after it kept hitting a record high and reached an unprecedented 21.3 percent in June. Meanwhile, the crisis in the property sector, which accounted for about a quarter of its gross domestic product (GDP), has escalated in recent weeks. Once the country’s most prominent homebuilder, Evergrande filed for bankruptcy protection in New York in August. Evegrande’s plan to restructure its more than $300 billion in debt was in question as the company’s founder, Hui Ka Yan, was investigated on criminal charges. Another real estate giant, Country Garden, is on the edge of default, battling to avoid missing repayments to investors.
The flurry of financial defaults by private developers is adding to the strain on local governments, whose main source of revenue is from land sales. According to the International Monetary Fund, debts accumulated by local authorities have reached as high as $9 trillion, adding risks to the country’s economy.
“China needs lots of U.S. investment,” Mr. Ding said. “If the United States could continue to invest in China, it will, of course, be helpful to China’s economic development.”
But with a slowdown in the economy, along with a slew of regulatory crackdowns on foreign consulting forms, American investors are fleeing the Chinese market.
“Only by making everyone feel that the U.S-China tensions are at ease can China calm the foreign investors who are shifting money out of the country,” said Yen Huai-Shing, a research fellow at the Chung-Hua Institution for Economic Research, a Taiwan-based think tank. “China wants to ‘stop the bleeding.'”
‘Must Demand Answers’
After the stop in Beijing, the U.S. senators will head to Xi’an, the capital of Shaanxi Province in western China, according to China’s state media.
Before leaving for China, Mr. Schumer said that one of the issues that he will speak to the Chinese side is China’s human rights record. It is unclear to what extent the senator will push Beijing to end its litany of human rights violations.
Last month, Sen. Rick Scott (R-Fla.) offered the Senate majority leader a list of issues he “must demand answers on” while meeting Chinese officials “if he has any hope of this not being a total embarrassment for him,” according to a press release.
One such issue was China’s espionage operations against the United States, including its spy balloon traversing the United States earlier this year before being shot down by the U.S. military, spy base in Cuba, and secret police stations in American cities.
China’s secret police station in New York City came to light in April, when the FBI arrested two individuals on charges of operating the station, allegedly that they had taken orders from the communist regime to track down and silence Chinese dissidents.
On Beijing’s human rights violations, Mr. Scott suggested Mr. Schumer demand answers about China’s ongoing imprisonment and persecution of Uyghurs, who are “subjected to slave labor, involuntary organ harvesting, sterilization and torture that often results in death.” The U.S. government has determined that China has committed “genocide” against Uyghurs and other minorities in China’s Xinjiang region.
Demanding answers about China’s cover-up of the COVID-19 pandemic is also a must-do, Mr. Scott stated, since the outbreaks had “caused devastation to the U.S. economy and the loss of millions of American lives.”
“The harm caused by Communist China’s international treaty violations, trade manipulation and illegal dumping, use of slave labor in solar panel production and attacks on the sovereignty of Taiwan and the Philippines with military operations in the Taiwan Strait and West Philippine Sea,” Mr. Scott added.
The Florida senator reminded Mr. Schumer that China will continue to be a U.S. adversary.
“Of course he will get a king’s welcome in Beijing. Communist China has chosen to be America’s enemy and NOTHING Schumer says is going to change that,” Mr. Scott said.
‘Human Rights Predators’
The delegation’s trip comes at a time when the United Nations General Assembly is set to hold an election on Oct. 10, when it will elect 15 states to the 47-seat U.N. Human Rights Council (UNHRC). Russia is seeking a return to the human rights body, while China and Cuba are among countries seeking reelection as their current three-year term ends on Dec. 31 this year.
Rights groups are urging UN member states not to support nations with poor human rights records, including China.
“Providing China, one of the world’s largest press freedom and human rights predators, with a platform to further influence and subvert international norms greatly endangers the right to information around the globe,” Cédric Alviani, East Asia bureau director of Reporters Without Borders (RSF), said in a statement released on Oct. 5.
Mr. Alviani added, “We urge all UN members to vote against China’s re-election to the Human Rights Council and call on States to build up pressure to secure the release of all journalists and press freedom defenders detained in both China and Hong Kong.”
In September, three human rights organizations including the UN Watch published a joint report (pdf), analyzing the qualifications for candidate states to have a seat on the UNHRC.
“Many religious groups in China are designated as illegal and subjected to harsh persecution including torture and arbitrary detention. These include Tibetan Buddhists, Uyghur Muslims, Falun Gong practitioners, and Christian house churches,” the report says.
The report also looked into China’s voting record as a UNHRC member.
“In that capacity, it opposed resolutions speaking out for human rights victims in Iran, Syria, Belarus, Burundi, Nicaragua, and Venezuela, among others,” the report says. “It also supported counterproductive resolutions that undermined individual human rights or addressed issues beyond the competency of the Council.”
In a statement accompanying the release of the report, Hillel Neuer, executive director of UN Watch, said it would be a “slap in the face” to political prisoners and suppressed citizens if their oppressive governments become “global judges and guardians of human rights” by sitting on the UNHRC.
“Electing the dictatorships of China, Russia and Cuba as UN judges on human rights is like making a gang of arsonists into the fire brigade,” Mr. Neuer said. “When the UN’s highest human rights body becomes a case of the foxes guarding the henhouse, the world’s victims suffer.”
Luo Ya and Reuters contributed to this report.
From The Epoch Times