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US views on China 'gone seriously awry', Chinese foreign minister warns during Pacific tour

·5 min read

Washington's views on China and Sino-US relations have "gone seriously awry", the Chinese foreign minister said, after his country was labelled by US Secretary of State Antony Blinken as the "most serious long-term" threat to world order.

Wang Yi also condemned what he called America's "cold war mentality", saying it is the US that "has actually become a source of chaos that shakes the current international order and an obstacle to the advancement of the democratisation of international relations".

Wang's remarks came in response to a speech by Blinken accusing China of undermining the global order and pledging to work more closely with US allies and other countries to counter Beijing's influence.

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Speaking during a visit to Fiji as part of his eight-nation tour of the South Pacific, Wang said the world was not the world the US portrayed and China was not the China the US imagined.

"We want to tell the US side that Sino-US relations are not a zero-sum game designed by the US," Wang said on Saturday, according to a readout released by the Chinese foreign ministry.

"[Washington should] first realise that unipolar hegemony is unpopular, group confrontation has no future, small yards and high walls are closed and regressive, and decoupling and cutting off supply is detrimental to people and themselves," Wang said of Washington's relations with Beijing.

China was willing to compete with the US, but not in a "vicious" way, he said.

"We never give in to blackmail and coercion, and will firmly defend China's sovereignty, security and development interests. Any suppression and containment will only make the Chinese people more united, and the Chinese have the backbone and ambition to do so."

On Thursday, delivering a long-awaited policy speech covering the most contentious issues with Beijing, Blinken described China as "the only country with both the intent to reshape the international order and, increasingly, the economic, diplomatic, military and technological power to do it".

"Even as [Russian] President [Vladimir] Putin's war continues, we will remain focused on the most serious long-term challenge to the international order - and that is the one posed by the People's Republic of China," Blinken said in his address at George Washington University.

The US, while not seeking a new cold war to isolate China, "has developed and implemented a comprehensive strategy [towards Beijing] ... to harness our national strengths and our unmatched network of allies and partners", Blinken said, in a reiteration of US President Joe Biden's alliance-centric strategy to contain China.

Beijing and Washington are now locked in some of their tensest confrontations ever, on almost everything from trade, technology and military supremacy to ideology.

Leading the latest US efforts to cement its network of allies in the region, Biden embarked on his first Asia tour as president last week, announcing the launch of the Indo-Pacific Economic Framework (IPEF) during a stop in Japan.

The trade initiative, which aims to be an economic pillar of the Biden administration's Indo-Pacific strategy to counter China's influence in the region, currently has 14 member states, including US allies Japan and South Korea, as well as regional partners like Vietnam and Singapore.

The island nation of Fiji also signed up on Friday, in yet another sign of intensifying US-China rivalry in the South Pacific.

Beijing has long been wary of any US-led network of alliances, viewing these as part of Washington's efforts to isolate China and undermine its strategic interests, particularly in the Asia-Pacific.

Biden's visit to Tokyo also featured a Quad summit hosted by Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida and attended by the leaders of fellow member states India and Australia. Tuesday's meeting, the second in-person summit of the four-nation informal security partnership, ended with a pledge to oppose all attempts to "change the status quo by force" in the Indo-Pacific.

Though a carefully worded joint statement did not explicitly name China, Kishida noted later that the four countries expressed "grave concern" over "China unilaterally changing the status quo in the East and South China Seas".

The joint statement also promised to combat issues including illegal fishing under the US-led Indo-Pacific Partnership for Maritime Domain Awareness, apart from cooperation in areas such as global health security, cybersecurity, climate change, critical and emerging technologies, space and infrastructure.

Beijing reacted with expected fury, summoning a senior Japanese diplomat to protest against what it called "negative and erroneous" comments and actions by Japan. Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin also denounced the Quad's latest moves, saying "engaging in 'small circles' and stirring up rival camps is the real threat to building a peaceful, stable and cooperative maritime order".

This article originally appeared in the South China Morning Post (SCMP), the most authoritative voice reporting on China and Asia for more than a century. For more SCMP stories, please explore the SCMP app or visit the SCMP's Facebook and Twitter pages. Copyright © 2022 South China Morning Post Publishers Ltd. All rights reserved.

Copyright (c) 2022. South China Morning Post Publishers Ltd. All rights reserved.