Asia Pacific / Politics

China's Xi says 'no clash' of civilizations amid U.S. trade war in wake of controversial State Department comments

AFP-JIJI

Chinese President Xi Jinping declared Wednesday there was “no clash” of civilizations and denounced racial supremacy as “stupid” amid tensions with the United States and concerns over Beijing’s rising global power.

His remarks came after a top-level U.S. official last month described the rivalry between China and the U.S. as “a fight with a really different civilization and a different ideology.”

Kiron Skinner, the director of policy planning at the U.S. State Department, put it in racial terms, telling a security forum that China was the first U.S. “great power competitor that is not Caucasian.”

“Thinking that one’s own race and culture are superior, and insisting on transforming or even replacing other civilizations is stupid in its understanding and disastrous in practice,” Xi said at the opening ceremony of the Conference on Dialogue of Asian Civilizations in Beijing.

“There is no clash between different civilizations, (we) just need to have the eye to appreciate the beauty in all civilizations,” he added, without mentioning the United States.

Xi’s speech comes less than a week after trade negotiations between Washington and Beijing took a turn for the worse, with the U.S. hiking tariffs on $200 billion in Chinese merchandise and targeting duties on $300 billion more.

On Monday, China retaliated with an announcement that it would raise tariffs on $60 billion worth of U.S. goods from June 1.

The two countries are locked in a battle for global influence, with diplomatic and economic tensions ranging from U.S. military aid to self-ruled Taiwan to criticism of Beijing’s “Belt and Road” global infrastructure program.

China’s rising influence has also raised alarm bells in Asia, especially as it continues to assert its vast territorial claims in the disputed South China Sea and East China Sea.

Last month, Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte warned Beijing to back off from a Manila-held island in the South China Sea, threatening possible military action if Beijing “touched” the island.

In his speech Xi also called for unity among Asian nations, saying that “Asian people look forward to an open and integrated Asia.”

“We hope that all countries will jointly build an Asian community of shared future … for humanity,” while adhering to the spirit of openness, promoting trade and utilizing financial resources, Xi said.

“It is unwise to try to transform other civilizations, thinking its own civilization is superior,” Xi added, in an apparent jab at the United States under President Donald Trump, which has urged China to change political and business practices Washington considers unfair.

“On the foundation of the brilliant achievements obtained by our ancestors, we will … strive to continue writing the new glory of Asian civilizations,” he said.