Amid rising tensions since Donald Trump assumed the presidency, China’s Foreign Minister said that both states cannot afford conflict, and that the U.S. needs to “brush up” on its history while advocating greater world trade and diplomacy.
“There cannot be conflict between China and the United States, as both sides will lose and both sides cannot afford that,” said Wang Yi, during a joint press conference with Australian Foreign Minister Julie Bishop in Canberra on Tuesday.
Wang added that China was not aiming to replace anyone but wanted to play an increasing “leadership role,” and added that the U.S.-China relationship had been able to defy “all sorts of difficulties” throughout its history.
“What we assess is the official policy statement, made by the (U.S.) administration after inauguration, not campaign rhetoric, not some remarks made years ago,” Wang said in reference to a new era of already strained relations under Trump.
U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson has stirred tensions after saying that China should not be allowed access to its artificial islands in the disputed South China Sea. Trump also broke diplomatic protocol by calling the president of Taiwan, which China considers a part of the Chinese republic.
Later on Tuesday, Wang suggested that the U.S. should “brush up” on its post-World War II history and the politics around the South China Sea. He said that because of post-war declarations, Japan had agreed to return all Chinese territory from the war.
“Afterwards, certain countries around China used illegal methods to occupy some of the Nansha Islands and reefs, and it’s this that created the so-called South China Sea dispute.”
Brunei, Malaysia, Taiwan and Vietnam also have claims to the waterway, prized for its strategic importance. In July, the Philippines won an international arbitration case upholding their claims against China over the area, although China does not recognize the decision.
Wang also reiterated recent rhetoric from Beijing against Trump-style protectionism, arguing that the world’s two biggest economies needed to support an open global market. “It is important to steer economic globalization towards greater inclusiveness and broader shared benefit in a more sustainable way.”
While Trump has pulled the U.S. out of the Trans Pacific Partnership, or TPP, free trade agreement, Australia has been pushing to go ahead with the agreement as the “TPP minus one.” Bishop on Tuesday encouraged Beijing “to consider the agreement.”