China’s top diplomat called on the U.S. to respect its sovereignty, while attempting to calm fears about the country’s growing economic power, saying it had no intention to “play the game of thrones” and unseat America’s global prominence.
Speaking on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly in New York, Chinese State Councilor and Foreign Minister Wang Yi remained optimistic that progress would be made on high-level trade talks with Washington set for next month, but warned the Trump administration that “scapegoating or unilaterally initiating a trade war” would not lead to results.
“China has no intention to play the Game of Thrones on the world stage,” Wang said. “The United States is and will still be the strongest country in the world.”
Wang’s comments came at a dinner hosted by the U.S.-China Business Council and the National Committee on U.S.-China Relations. Many high-level executives of American companies that have business footprints in China have attended the dinner, including BlackRock CEO Larry Fink and FedEx CEO Frederick Smith.
Touting China’s economic growth and structural reforms, Wang directly appealed to business executives in the room, vowing to open its doors “even wider” to American businesses, saying “opening up is China’s set, stayed policy.” Yet, Wang made clear that “national renewal” would not be dictated by Washington, adding that “the United States should not seek to change China.”
“Conflict and confrontation will lead nowhere and neither country can mold each other into its own image,” Wang said. “Worrying China will challenge and unseat the United States from its role in the world is a strategic misjudgment about China and it reflects a lack of self-confidence.”
China’s economic growth has continued to decelerate amid the prolonged trade war with the U.S. A quarterly survey released Wednesday by China Beige Book showed manufacturing, services, and property sector slowed further while debt levels soared in the third quarter. China’s growth slowed to 6.2% in the second quarter, its weakest pace in nearly 30 years.
Wang said both countries have been suffering losses from the ongoing trade tensions, citing a recent U.S.-China Business Council study that showed 26% of American companies surveyed saw revenues decline, as a result of the trade war. Wang did not elaborate on the impact on his home economy, but pushed the U.S. to remove “unreasonable” restrictions, a likely reference to telecommunications equipment giant Huawei, who has remained on the U.S. Commerce Department’s entity list since May.
“China has been opening up to foreign countries, including the U.S. We also hope the U.S. could open its door to China, removing all unreasonable restrictions,” he said.
US should stop trying to change China
In addition to trade, the foreign minister pushed back against criticism on a broad range of issues, including Taiwan, Hong Kong, and Xinjiang, warning Washington against interference in “internal affairs.”
“Chinese people have experimented with different models, including introducing the Western democratic model, which failed eventually because it didn’t accord with China’s situation,” he said. “We’re determined to take the road we have chosen...China has no intention to change the U.S., so the U.S. shouldn’t always be looking to change China.”
Wang went on to address controversial issues including Taiwan territory, Hong Kong protests and Ugygur re-education camps in Xinjiang. He urged the U.S. to obey the “One China” principle and respect the Hong Kong government’s right to “quell the riots.” Hong Kong, the special administrative region of China with a different political system, has been hit by a wave of pro-democracy protests since June. The U.S. lawmakers including Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) have voiced support for activists in Hong Kong.
On Xinjiang, Wang called the taking Ugygur ethnics to the mass facilities for vocational education “a preventive counter-terrorism measure” and “follows China’s law.” It’s estimated that over 1 million Uyghur Muslims have been detained in the internment camps since 2014, and some former detainees have spoken up about being tortured during interrogation at the camps. Washington has criticized China for its treatment of minorities.
When asked what is the one thing that he wants President Trump to compromise on, Wang laughed. “I just want to say that I hope President Trump will visit China more, engage more with the Chinese people and have face-to-face conversations with them,” he said.