The unofficial nature of the latest meeting between Chinese and United States senior diplomats points to the serious damage that Washington has brought to its ties with Beijing and the dire need to repair the great shortage of mutual trust, observers said.
They made the observation as senior Chinese diplomat Wang Yi met in "an unofficial engagement" with US Secretary of State Antony Blinken at the request of the US side on the sidelines of the 59th Munich Security Conference on Saturday.
Wang, a member of the Political Bureau of the Communist Party of China Central Committee and director of the Office of the Foreign Affairs Commission of the CPC Central Committee, made explicit "China's solemn position on the so-called airship incident", according to a statement by the Foreign Ministry.
He asked the US to "change course (and) acknowledge and repair the damage that its excessive use of force caused to China-US relations".
Earlier this month, the US military shot down a Chinese unmanned airship that was spotted in US airspace, triggering Beijing's strong protests.
China reiterated that the civilian unmanned airship, due to the Westerlies — prevailing winds from the west — and limited self-steering capability, deviated from its planned course and entered US airspace.
Before and following the shooting down of the airship, some senior US officials and politicians hyped the airship and China's so-called "threat" to the US.
An unnamed Foreign Ministry spokesperson quoted Wang on Sunday as saying at the talks with Blinken that "the US is in no position to smear China. What the US needs to do is demonstrate sincerity and face up to and resolve the damage that its abuse of force has done to China-US relations".
Wang said that "if the US continues to dramatize, hype up or escalate the situation, China will surely respond by doing what is necessary", and "all consequences arising thereof shall be borne by the US side", according to the spokesperson.
Wu Xinbo, dean of Fudan University's Institute of International Studies, noted that since the meeting between President Xi Jinping and US President Joe Biden in Bali, Indonesia, in November, the two governments' working teams from diplomacy, security, treasury and trade departments have embarked on dialogue to further implement the consensus reached by the two leaders.
"Yet on the other side, Washington has not slowed down its pace in stepping up suppression against China, including in sectors such as leading science and technology. To be fair, the Biden administration's China policy is still double-faced," Wu said.
Foreign Ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin said on Wednesday that the US had released high-altitude balloons that illegally flew into China's airspace "more than 10 times without the approval of relevant Chinese authorities "since May, and China had handled the balloons "in a calm and professional manner".
When answering questions at a China session of the Munich Security Conference on Saturday, Wang Yi said the airship incident is "a political farce", and an underlying factor behind Washington's hyping up of the airship's accidental entry is "the US' wrong perception and strategic misjudgment of China".
"A lot of balloons are flying over the Earth every day. Does the US want to shoot them all down? Such an action is no proof of the US' power, but the exact opposite," he said.
At the Saturday conference, Wang urged Washington to "stop doing such absurd things out of domestic political needs" and to "show sincerity and correct its mistakes".
Su Xiaohui, an associate research fellow at the China Institute of International Studies, said, "High-level communications between Beijing and Washington have encountered serious obstacles due to the US domestic political atmosphere, the trade of barbs between the Democrats and Republicans, and anti-China sentiment in the country.
"For Beijing, it is still open to collaboration. It looks to stabilize the ties with the US through dialogues and put the relations back on track. Still, it takes two to tango, and Washington should work toward the same goal," Su added.
Policy researchers and media around the world have voiced grave concerns about rising China-US tensions over the airship, the Taiwan question and US restrictions on trade and semiconductor technologies related to China.
In Munich, Wang criticized the US CHIPS and Science Act as the use of one country's power to suppress Chinese companies, and said it disrupts the stability of global industrial and supply chains.
The act is"100 percent unilateral and self-serving and it 100 percent violates the rules of the World Trade Organization", he said. "The US is standing against the free trade that it has been advocating."
Speaking on overall China-US ties, Wang said that China's policy toward the US is based on clear and transparent principles of mutual respect, peaceful coexistence and win-win cooperation, yet "the US sees China as the gravest geopolitical challenge and strategic competitor".
Saying that China has never been afraid of competition despite all the US talking about competing with China, Wang urged the US to view China's development in a fair and objective way, pursue a positive and pragmatic China policy, and work together with China to bring China-US relations back on track.
Also at the conference, Wang announced that China will soon release a concept paper on the Global Security Initiative, which was proposed by President Xi last year.
It will provide more systematic thinking and more feasible initiatives to address global security challenges, and China welcomes the active participation of all countries, Wang said.