China has never wanted to challenge or “replace” the United States, and has no interest in playing power games, a senior Chinese diplomat said on Thursday amid strained ties between the world’s two largest economies.
As well as being in the midst of a bruising trade war, which both are working to end, Beijing and Washington have in recent months sparred over a variety of issues, from the protests in Hong Kong to U.S. support for Chinese-claimed Taiwan.
Speaking at an academic forum, Vice Foreign Minister Le Yucheng, a rising star in Chinese diplomacy and tipped as a future foreign minister, noted that there had been speculation that China would assume the United States’ “hegemonistic” position in the world.
“This does not accord with the facts, nor the trend of the development of the times,” Le said, according to a transcript of his comments published by China’s Foreign Ministry.
“China has never wanted to challenge the United States or replace it, seizing other people’s position. Our goal is to let the Chinese people live a good life, and continually improve our governance,” he added.
China advocates a multipolar world and maintenance of multilateralism and free trade, Le said.
China “has never thought of competing with the United States for hegemony, and is not interested in power games.”
In an indirect swipe at the United States, Le said that “certain countries” talk and talk about how they must compete with China.
China is not against competition, he said.
“But competition does not mean confrontation and conflict. One cannot at will engage in extreme pressure, ‘decoupling’ or ‘long-arm jurisdiction,'” Le said.
China has lambasted the United States for putting sanctions on Chinese companies and citizens for their dealings with countries like North Korea and Iran, which Beijing refers to as Washington’s “long- arm jurisdiction.”
Beijing has also criticized Washington for pressuring it in the trade war by hiking tariffs on Chinese exports, and some in China have feared the United States is seeking a complete “decoupling” of economic and other links with the country.
However speaking earlier this week in Beijing, a senior U.S. defense official said the United States was not seeking to “decouple” from China.