American attacks on China risk total destruction of mutual gains, Chinese foreign minister warns
Attempts to turn tide of international sentiment will have ripple effects around the world, Wang Yi warns
Washington is putting four decades of gains in its relationship with Beijing at risk of “total destruction” with its repeated attacks on China, Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi told a group of businesspeople and others in New York on Monday.
Addressing members of the US-China Business Council and the National Committee on US-China Relations, Wang said China and the United States had played a key role in global affairs since they established diplomatic ties in 1979, but recent developments had stopped that momentum.
“The US is increasingly implementing negative policies in relation to China ... frequently blaming China for its unhealthy attitudes in economics, trade and security to artificially create opposing emotions against China,” the Chinese foreign ministry quoted Wang as saying.
“These claims are neither true nor responsible, and only poison bilateral relations.
“If the trend continues, it will totally ruin the gains of the Sino-US relations in the past 40 years. This is unfavourable to both China and the US and ultimately to the world.”
He said cooperation was the only way forward.
“We have learned this over the last 40 years … The two sides must unswervingly move forward in the direction of cooperation,” Wang said.
The warning came a week after the administration of US President Donald Trump slapped tariffs on US$200 billion in Chinese goods. China responded with duties of its own on US$60 billion in American products. Beijing also called off planned trade talks with US officials and accused Washington of using bullying tactics and economic intimidation.
Chinese state media have echoed the message, saying the tariffs are part of a US attempt to contain China.
But Wang also sought to find common ground with the administration, saying China was not pursuing a trade surplus with the US and the door was still open for talks.
“China does not intend to seek a trade surplus and is willing to resolve trade imbalances through consultations,” Wang said.
“But, dialogue should be based on equality and integrity. It can’t be carried out under threats and pressure … The US implemented a larger-scale tariff on the eve of a new round of dialogue, which only shows that there is no sincerity for solving the problem.”
Zhao Tong, a fellow at Carnegie’s Nuclear Policy Programme at the Carnegie-Tsinghua Centre for Global Policy in Beijing, said the confrontation between Beijing and Washington indicated that the US perception of China had fundamentally changed.
“They now believe China is advocating for a completely different value system which contradicts the Western value system and makes an ideological competition inevitable,” he said.
“China may feel it has no choice but to retaliate strongly. Admitting weakness and taking a conciliatory position is not an acceptable option for a Chinese leadership that cares dearly about its domestic and international image.”
Zhang Baohui, a professor of political science and director of the Centre for Asian Pacific Studies at Lingnan University in Hong Kong, said China was looking to avoid escalating conflict with the US.
“China wants to de-escalate the friction with the US until it’s fully risen ... But the conflict seems inevitable as the Trump administration has plenty of hawks in its office ... who want to expand the conflict against China [beyond] trade. There is not much China can do to stop it,” he said.