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China says US eagerness to engage is an ‘illusion’

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BEIJING (Reuters) – A widely followed state-backed Chinese social media account accused Washington of repeatedly playing tricks and creating the “illusion” that it is eager to engage with China, days before an expected visit by U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken.

While not yet announced by the State Department, a U.S. official has said Blinken will be in China for talks on June 18.

The lead up to the high-level, high-stakes visit has been marred by fresh U.S. claims of Chinese spying and scathing Chinese attacks on Washington’s sincerity to improve badly frayed bilateral ties.

Blinken, in February, cancelled a visit to Beijing after a suspected Chinese spy balloon flew across the United States. Days ahead of his trip this week, U.S. officials, including Blinken himself, said China had been spying from Cuba for some time and upgraded its intelligence gathering facilities there in 2019, claims that Beijing and Havana rejected as false.

On Monday, Blinken said China’s efforts in Cuba were part of a global effort by Beijing to expand its presence overseas, and U.S. actions to address this since President Joe Biden came to power in January 2021 have produced “results”, without specifying what those results were.

“Every time they say they want to meet, the United States would play a role and create the false illusion that it is eager to communicate while at the same time repeatedly testing and provoking China’s fundamental principles,” Yuyuan Tantian, a social media user affiliated with Chinese state broadcaster CCTV, wrote in an online article on Tuesday.

The balloon incident at the beginning of the year was a “farce”, and a request by the U.S. defence secretary to meet with his Chinese counterpart earlier this month which was rejected was nothing by a “carefully crafted” performance, it said.

Underscoring the negative mood around the Blinken visit, a man on Tuesday sprayed painted anti-American graffiti on the wall and a gate of the U.S. consulate in Hong Kong.

Local TV footage showed the word “hegemony” in English and the words “double standards” in simplified Chinese characters, which are used in mainland China as opposed to the traditional script common in the Chinese-ruled city.

“Since the U.S. has repeatedly emphasised the need to strengthen high-level communication with China, whether Blinken will visit China is a litmus test of U.S. sincerity and political manoeuvring ability,” Chinese state tabloid Global Times wrote in an editorial on Sunday.

(Reporting by Ryan Woo; Editing by Lincoln Feast.)

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