China-US relations

Chinese defence minister Wei Fenghe demands US retract allegations of interference

  • Calls on US to ‘remedy the mistakes’ and vows military would act against any move to separate Taiwan from China
  • Comments follow Communist Party’s third-ranking Li Zhanshu denouncing ‘alliances aimed at third parties’
PUBLISHED : Thursday, 25 October, 2018, 12:04pm
UPDATED : Friday, 26 October, 2018, 12:09pm

Top Chinese officials have condemned the United States for damaging relations with Beijing and denounced attempts to form anti-China alliances with other nations.

Wei Fenghe, the Chinese defence minister, blamed Washington for “seriously damaging the Sino-US relationship and mutual trust” by alleging China was interfering in US domestic policies, and vowed China would take action to defend its interests.

“China expressed its anger and resolute opposition,” Wei said, without naming US Vice-President Mike Pence, who made the allegations in early October.

“We strongly call on the US to remedy the mistakes, stop damaging China’s interests and the Sino-US relationship.”

He also said the Chinese military would take action against any attempt to separate Taiwan from the mainland. Beijing regards the self-ruled island as a breakaway province to be reunited with the mainland by force if necessary.

“China is the only big nation in the world that is not unified … And the Chinese military has a heavy responsibility to not let a single inch of its territory be lost,” Wei said. “If there is anyone attempting to separate Taiwan from China, the Chinese military will take action.”

Wei was addressing the two-day Xiangshan security forum in Beijing on Thursday, attended by 500 delegates from 74 countries, including the US, Canada, Southeast Asian nations and Nato states.

His remarks came after Li Zhanshu, a trusted ally of President Xi Jinping, made a similar warning in a welcome dinner for delegates on Wednesday.

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Li, chairman of the rubber-stamp legislature the National People’s Congress and the third-highest-ranking official on the Communist Party’s top echelon the Politburo Standing Committee, denounced “confrontational thinking” – a thinly veiled swipe at US President Donald Trump and his hard-nosed China policy – in his remarks at the dinner.

He condemned what he implied were recent efforts by world powers to push other nations to form an alliance against China.

“The alignment is a small group that engages in exclusivity, and aimed at third parties,” Li told the dinner without naming the US.

“This confrontational thinking is an important reason for global unrest, and the main source of all international hotspot issues.”

Li’s statement was clearly a reference to the Trump administration’s efforts to marshal various actions and galvanise world opinion against China.

Trump’s launching of a trade war with China, for instance, has been viewed as an attempt to punish the Asian country not only for its trade practices, but also for failing to sufficiently open up its markets, as promised, and for its record on other issues.

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A Beijing-based source close to Chinese diplomats said Li’s speech represented Xi’s view of the US-China trade war.

“Xi wants the trade row with US to stop as soon as possible, which he believes is also the common hope of some American politicians and entrepreneurs,” said the source, who spoke on condition of anonymity because of the issue’s sensitivity.

Li said China’s adherence to the principle of formal non-alignment with or against any major power bloc was the way to go in international relations.

Dealing only with “the concept of reciprocity and win-win”, China advocated partnerships that sought “common ground” and “not aimed at third parties”, he said.

China “respects the choices of people all over the world for their independent social system and development approaches”, he said.

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In the era of the global village, “no country can independently deal with all the challenges that humankind is facing, and no country can return to a self-enclosed system”, Li said.

Although Li did not specifically say the US was trying to form an anti-China alliance, he emphasised that Washington needed to seek cooperation with Beijing.

“Cooperation is the only correct choice for Sino-US relations: both sides will be hurt if they fight each other,” he said.

“The two sides should properly resolve problems through dialogue and consultation to ensure that Sino-US relations move along the right track.”

On top of the trade war, China-US relations have been hurt by US accusations that Beijing is trying to interfere in the upcoming US midterm elections.

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Ties also were strained by two US navy vessels sailing through the Taiwan Strait on Monday. Washington’s arms sales to Taiwan have triggered a rebuke from Beijing.

Li also used his remarks to warn the US and the independence-learning forces in Taiwan that Beijing was determined to “scrap all Taiwan independence and separatist plots”.

“Some countries have adopted a series of wrong practices on the Taiwan issue, damaging the peace and stability of the Taiwan Strait and threatening the region and peace,” Li said.

“[Beijing] firmly opposes [those independent moves] and will keep sticking to the principle of ‘peaceful reunification, one country, two systems’.”

It would also continue to “strive for the prospect of peaceful reunification with the utmost sincerity and best efforts”, he said.

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The major issues at the Xiangshan Forum are expected to be the South China Sea disputes and the removal of nuclear weapons from the Korean peninsula.

Some Chinese delegates said this year’s edition is the largest and includes the highest-level officials since its inception in 2006 as a forum for discussing Asia-Pacific security and defence issues.

It is increasingly seen as a rival to the IISS Asia Security Summit in Singapore, also known as the Shangri-La Dialogue – so named after the hotel venue where it is held.