China will assume world leadership if needed, Chinese diplomat says

PUBLISHED : Monday, 23 January, 2017, 5:52pm
UPDATED : Monday, 23 January, 2017, 5:55pm

China does not want world leadership but could be forced to assume that role if others step back from that position, a senior Chinese diplomat said on Monday.

Zhang Jun, director general of the Chinese foreign ministry’s international economics department, made the comments after US President Donald Trump pledged to put “America first”.

Zhang’s comments also came after Chinese President Xi Jinping topped the bill at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, last week.

Xi portrayed China as the leader of a globalised world where only international cooperation could solve the big problems.

Speaking days before Trump assumed the presidency, Xi also urged countries to resist isolationism, signalling Beijing’s desire to play a bigger role on the global stage.

Xi Jinping portrays China as global leader as Donald Trump prepares to take office

Elaborating on that theme, Zhang said China had no intention of seeking global leadership.

“If anyone were to say China is playing a leadership role in the world I would say it’s not China rushing to the front but rather the front runners have stepped back leaving the place to China,” Zhang said.

“If China is required to play that leadership role then China will assume its responsibilities.”

At his inauguration on Friday, Trump struck a nationalist and populist tone, pledging to end what he called an “American carnage” of rusted factories and crime.

Zhang said China was the world’s second-largest economy and others also relied on it for their economic growth.

“We still hope that the United States and other Western economies can continue to make an even bigger contribution to the world economic recovery. We’ve heard Trump announce that the United States will achieve four per cent growth and we’re very happy about that,” he added.

Don’t blame globalisation for world’s ills, Xi Jinping tells Davos

While Trump said American workers had been devastated by the outsourcing of jobs abroad, he did not mention China by name in his inaugural speech. However, he has threatened to put punitive tariffs on imports of Chinese goods.

Zhang said he thought Trump would not be able to achieve his economic growth goals if he was also fighting trade wars.

“A trade war or an exchange rate war won’t be advantageous to any country,” Zhang said.

Separately, foreign ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying said Xi had sent a congratulatory message to Trump upon his assumption of office, but gave no other details.