World wants Beijing and Washington to get on and resolve their differences, Chinese diplomat says

Minnie Chan

China and the United States should not be adversaries and the world hopes they will work together to resolve their differences, a senior Chinese diplomat told military officials in Beijing on Tuesday.

Beijing knew very well how much the trade war was affecting the world’s economy, foreign vice-minister Le Yucheng told delegates at the 9th Xiangshan Forum, a conference on regional security and defence issues.

“The global stock market sees significant gains when there is good news about the trade talks [between China and the US], but it falls whenever there is negative news,” Le said.

“All these have given us the answer: the world wants China and the US to end the trade war. Sit down and talk to each other. As long as our two countries cooperate, we can benefit not just our own people, but also contribute to the growth of the world economy.”

He called on the US to work with China and played down their rivalry.

“China doesn’t want to displace or threaten anyone. China and the US should work together well … there are no disagreements between China and the US that cannot be solved,” he told the more than 500 delegates at the forum, which finishes on Tuesday.

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But Le also criticised US tariffs on Chinese goods, saying such pressure “would not work”.

“We are not in favour of using tariffs to put more pressure on China – such a method simply doesn’t work – instead of developing Sino-US relations on the basis of coordination, collaboration and stability,” he said.

“There is no reason for Americans to worry that the Chinese would steal their ‘cheese’,” Le said. “What China wants is to deliver a better life for the Chinese people. We don’t want to take anything from anyone else.”

On Monday, US President Donald Trump said that efforts to end the trade war with China were going well, raising hope that he and Chinese President Xi Jinping might sign the first phase of a trade deal next month at the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation leaders meeting in Chile.

“The deal with China’s coming along very well. They want to make a deal,” Trump said before a cabinet meeting.

Speaking at the same forum, Singapore Defence Minister Ng Eng Hen warned that the intensifying US-China rivalry could lead to “disastrous consequences”, the worst of which would be “a destructive collision, whether economically, militarily, or both”.

“For small countries like Singapore, we watch with deep concern as the larger powers position themselves more aggressively against each other,” he said.

“Singapore will maintain a strong friendship with both sides, but it’s also acutely aware that the further the US and China pull apart, the harder it would be for all countries to keep this principal and neutral position.”

He urged Beijing and Washington find common ground given that the alternatives would be far worse.

“Almost all countries hope for an outcome underpinned by accommodation between two powers,” he said.

“The world looks to the enlightened leadership of both the United States and China, to forge a world that it is safe, open and inclusive for this generation and the next,” Ng said.

China's foreign vice-minister Le Yucheng speaks at the Xiangshan Forum in Beijing. Photo: Reuters

Bates Gill, a strategic and defence specialist from Macquarie University in Australia, said Le’s comments underscored Beijing’s worries that the Trump administration might flip flop over the trade talks and wanted to promote the idea of “coexistence” to the US.

“Part of coexistence is an acceptance of China … but now the ways China uses its power have clashed with American interests militarily, economically, and also in terms of values and governance,” said Gill on the sidelines of the forum.

“All those confrontations are increasing, and causing problems to the American public and political leaders,” he added.

On the first day of the forum, Melanie Hart, a senior fellow and director of China Policy at American Progress, a Washington-based liberal think-tank, told a seminar of young officers and scholars that China’s ambition to export its model of governance “would directly threaten the American’s core national interests” due to the different ideologies of the two countries.