Chinese Premier Li Keqiang has called on the US to lift export bans on China, despite widening differences between the two countries. During his annual press conference in Beijing on Friday, Li said there were broad areas and great potential for cooperation between China and the United States . “If the United States lifts its export bans on China, bilateral trade will grow even larger and both countries and peoples will benefit,” he said. He added that US-China trade grew by 30 per cent last year to US$750 billion and China was willing to seek long-term interests with the United States. Hearkening back to the 1972 visit by then US president Richard Nixon to China , Li said ties had moved forward dispute occasion disruption. “Now that both sides have opened their doors, the doors shouldn’t be shut again, and definitely not decoupled,” he said. Relations between the two countries are at their lowest points in decades, as China and the US compete for geopolitical, ideological and technological advantage. The war in Ukraine has added to those differences, with US Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo warning on Tuesday that the US could “essentially shut” down any Chinese companies defying US sanctions by continuing to supply chips to Russia. But when asked on Friday about a White House assessment that “engagement with China” was over and ties are mainly defined by “competition”, Li sought to strike a more conciliatory tone. “We think cooperation is still the mainstream [in US-China ties],” he said. “Even though there is competition in the trade area, it is still benign and fair competition.” The question was based on comments last year by Kurt Campbell, coordinator for Indo-Pacific affairs on the US National Security Council. Announcing an end to the period of engagement, Campbell said in May that “the dominant paradigm is going to be competition” for bilateral ties with China. Li’s assessment echoed those made by Foreign Minister Wang Yi at a wide-ranging press conference four days earlier. Wang attributed most world problems, ranging from the war in Ukraine to tensions in the South China Sea, to US policies. He also accused the US of not living up commitments made during conversations between US President Joe Biden and his Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping that the US was not seeking confrontation with China. These words were merely “verbal assurance” and not put into practice, Wang said. Li was more restrained on Friday, saying he hoped both sides would adhere to the consensus reached during last year’s virtual summit. Pang Zhongying, a professor of international relations at Ocean University of China in Qingdao, said Li’s call for cooperation with Washington was well intentioned but unlikely to work. Pang said the war in Ukraine could have been a chance for China and the US to work together but Beijing was missing the opportunity. So far, China has refused to denounce the Russian invasion and has defended its close partnership with Moscow. “If China is serious about resetting its ties with the US, as some mainland scholars recently appealed, [Russian President Vladimir] Putin’s aggression should have been a good window of opportunity for Beijing to seek some level of alignment with the US and its allies,” he said. “With most countries distancing themselves from Moscow, China may pay an economic price for its decision to side with Russia and suffer collateral damage from Western sanctions.” Wang Yi says Taiwan and Ukraine situations are fundamentally different However, Vladimir Portyakov, deputy director of the Institute for Far Eastern Studies at the Russian Academy of Sciences, said it would be unrealistic for Beijing to see the Ukraine crisis as an opportunity, given just how much US-China ties had deteriorated in the past three or four years. Zhiqun Zhu, a professor of international relations at Bucknell University, also said there was little sign that Washington would change its approach on treating Beijing as its biggest challenge and threat, regardless of how Beijing reacted to the Russia-Ukraine crisis. He noted that since the Russian invasion, the Biden administration had reaffirmed its commitment to Taiwan by sending a high-level delegation of former military and security leaders to the island and a destroyer to the Taiwan Strait. These were “clear signals to Beijing” and it would be wishful to expect the US-China relations to significantly improve even “if China joins the US in condemning Russia”, Zhu said.