China’s foreign vice-minister Le Yucheng has called on Washington to accept that “American hegemony” is in decline, but insisted it will be difficult to overtake the United States even within a “relatively long period of time”. The US is still the leading power in terms of strength but its adoption of a cold war mentality and creation of “small clubs” is a sign of ideological decline, Le told media outlet Guancha on Friday. “The US decline is not a decline in strength but a decline of hegemony,” Le said. “No matter a country’s strength, hegemonic power is bound to wither, hegemony is not popular.” But he said the US is “still a strong and large nation in the number one spot”, adding: “It will be hard to overtake it over a relatively long period of time.” Le said that US-led groupings like the defence-focused Quad, the intelligence-sharing Five Eyes, and the Group of Seven were all examples of Washington trying to define the “international community” when there are many more nations willing to support China’s position. US, Europe must ‘maximise alignment’ to confront China: White House official He also referred to a recent UN vote backed by 44 nations, including the US , backed a call for the UN human rights chief to be given access to Xinjiang , where Beijing is accused of the mass detention of Muslim minorities and using forced labour. Afterwards, China said that it had won the backing of 90 nations, which had “said ‘no’ to anti-China ‘small clubs’,” according to Le. He said: “This is the international community’s voice of justice, this is real multilateralism.” The remarks come at a time when Beijing is urging the US not to form a relationship rooted in rivalry but to continue engaging with China. In an event marking the 50th anniversary of Henry Kissinger’s secret visit to China which set in motion the normalisation of relations, Vice-President Wang Qishan said the biggest challenge facing the US came from within rather than from China. Meanwhile the former US secretary of state has called for serious dialogue between China and the United States to avoid “catastrophe”. Between 1979 and 2016, US-China relations were for the most part friendly, mostly because of Washington’s policy of engagement, which assumed that integrating China into the global economy would ensure that political liberalisation would follow. Le said that this policy had allowed the two countries to cooperate on issues of global importance, including the 2008 financial crisis and climate change . Le’s call comes just two days after 40 progressive groups in the US sent a letter to President Joe Biden and lawmakers urging them to prioritise cooperation with China on climate change and curb its confrontational approach to issues such as Beijing’s crackdown on Hong Kong and treatment of Uygur Muslims in Xinjiang . Le also accused Biden and his administration of revealing their hegemonic view of the world order and lingering cold war mentality when they spoke of approaching China “from a position of strength”. The phrase also irked China’s foreign policy chief Yang Jiechi during his March meeting with US Secretary of State Anthony Blinken in Alaska. White House considering talks between Joe Biden and Xi Jinping “The biggest challenge faced by a superpower like the United States will always come from within, and destroying China is by no means a prescription for solving American problems,” Le said. “We hope that the United States will return to reason and the right path of dialogue and cooperation, no need to turn resisting China into a policy, nor containing China into ‘political correctness’.” Le also referred to the Build Back Better World plan advocated by the United States at the recent G7 meeting to counter China’s Belt and Road Initiative, saying China welcomes other nations’ efforts to boost infrastructure development. “We hope the US and Western countries can truly implement their infrastructure plans, build more roads and bridges for developing countries, and create more jobs and welfare for them, instead of interfering in other countries’ internal affairs and forcibly exporting Western values,” he said. Le has been a moderate voice among Beijing’s diplomatic corps, being the first to send an olive branch to the US after last year’s election and penning long commentaries in state-run media calling for US-China dialogue at all levels of government and among think tanks and the media. This has contrasted with the more aggressive rhetoric of Le’s “Wolf Warrior” colleagues , such as the f oreign ministry spokespersons Zhao Lijian and Hua Chungying. However, during the interview on Friday Le made several criticisms of the US that were similar in tone and substance to the more aggressive rhetoric of the Wolf Warriors. Le said the genocide of Native Americans was one reason why Washington’s criticisms of China’s human rights record were not credible. Le also described the hypothesis that the coronavirus could have leaked from a laboratory in Wuhan as a “conspiracy theory manufactured by spies”, urging the US to clear up suspicions surrounding its own biolaboratories.