Beijing’s top envoy in Washington has pushed back against US assertions that China should obey “traffic rules” set by the White House and accused the United States of trying to erect another “Berlin Wall” to contain China. In his first remarks since US President Joe Biden’s meeting with President Xi Jinping , Qin Gang, China’s ambassador to the US, questioned the US’ mandate to assert those rules. “The US says that its China policy is for defending the ‘rules-based international order’ and ensuring the implementation of ‘rules of the road’,” Qin said at a Brookings Institution event on Thursday, according to a transcript released by the Chinese embassy in Friday. “But what are the rules? Who made these rules? Who are the traffic police? The US has not made itself clear on these questions.” Observers said the Qin’s remarks underlined Beijing’s deep discontent with the Biden administration and cast doubt on prospects of a temporary detente, despite the conciliatory tone the two leaders struck on Tuesday. On Saturday, Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi also urged Washington to honour its summit commitments on Taiwan and avoid a new cold war with Beijing. Wang also denounced Washington’s alliance-based approach to counter China, which he said would “create barriers and divisions [and] provoke conflicts and confrontations”. The US has referred to the need for “traffic rules” several times in the last week. At the virtual summit with Xi, Biden said the US would work with its allies and partners to “ ensure the rules of the road for the 21st century advance an international system that is free, open, and fair”, according to the White House summary of the meeting. Senior administration officials have urged Beijing to abide by “the rule of the road”, or “traffic rules” alternately, in the past week. And according to Jake Sullivan, Biden’s national security adviser, who gave a briefing about the summit at Brookings on Tuesday, the US and like-minded partners would write those “rules to advance their interests and values and push back on China. However, Beijing has long rejected Washington’s attempts to frame its criticism of China’s assertive foreign policy through the lens of “the rules-based order”, a perspective shared by US allies in Europe and Asia, including those involved in territorial disputes with China. Beijing denounces it as a US-led effort targeting China, which was “nothing but hegemony in essence under the disguise of rules”, as vice foreign minister Xie Feng put it last week. Beijing was also unhappy with Biden’s repeated emphasis in the summit on the need to set up “guardrails” to avoid bilateral tensions escalating into conflict. “The ‘guardrails’ are also a unilateral constraint on China in terms of the interests of the US and its allies. In comparison, the expression of managing differences starts from a more equal point of view and requires both sides to assume obligations,” nationalist tabloid Global Times said in an editorial on Wednesday. Xi-Biden summit: upbeat tone not enough to ease Southeast Asia’s concerns about great power squeeze At the Brookings Institution on Thursday, Qin, who took the job in August and is believed to have the blessing of Xi, was also critical of Biden’s strategy to strengthen its alliance system and build an international coalition against China. “Putting together small groups targeted at third parties is reversing the wheels of history. The world should not be divided by another ‘Berlin Wall’,” he said. He took aim at Biden’s characterisation of the US-China rivalry as a long battle between democracies and China-led autocracies, and denounced the White House’s upcoming Summit for Democracy of world leaders as “most undemocratic” and ideologically biased. Xi voiced similar annoyance at the summit about a series of Washington-led groupings near China’s doorstep, such as the Quad with Japan, India and Australia, according to Kurt Campbell, the White House coordinator for Indo-Pacific affairs, who spoke at a US Institute of Peace event on Friday. Biden was also blunt in his response, according to Sullivan and Campbell, who were present at the summit. Biden was quoted by Campbell as saying the world leaders he talked to “all say the same thing that they’re worried that China has taken coercive steps, militarily [and] commercially, that has created tensions globally and has upset bilateral relationship with China”. They were “antithetical to China’s interests”, Biden told Xi. But Qin defended China’s aggressive diplomacy, saying “China was, is and will still be a reliable member of the international system”. “China is not part of the problems in the world, but part of the solutions,” he told the Brookings gathering. Noting perceptions that Beijing and Washington were “two different ‘operating systems’ incompatible with each other”, the diplomat said the two rival powers must cooperate to avoid “a head-to-head duel”. “From the Korean peninsula nuclear issue to the Iranian nuclear issue, if it were not China’s efforts to promote peace talks, the US could have faced a much worse scenario,” he said. China and US set for talks to ‘stop competition veering off into conflict’ in wake of Joe Biden and Xi Jinping’s virtual summit Analysts said that while the summit released some pressure and would help stabilise the China-US relationship, it was far from certain that both sides could manage their differences amid the distrust and antagonism. According to Sourabh Gupta, a senior fellow at the Institute for China-America Studies in Washington, China had largely been unwilling to cooperate on specific issues because of Biden’s confrontational approach. The Biden administration has taken an a la carte approach to ties with China, picking and choosing areas of competition and cooperation, he said. “A la carte transactionalism is well and alive, with the two leaders speaking as much to each other as they seem to have spoken past each other,” Gupta said. “And lacking the ballast of concerted top-level management, I simply cannot envision China moving off its obstinacy on genuine cooperation on the important issues that unite the two countries.” He warned that the US-China relation s might not become “a managed coexistence”, but a messy one, citing some of the immediate tests facing bilateral ties, such as next month’s democracy summit, which Taiwanese representatives are likely to attend. Gu Su, a political scientist at Nanjing University, also said bilateral ties would face real tests in the months ahead, as both Xi and Biden would need to tackle domestic challenges and consolidate their power at home.