Chinese Defence Minister Li Shangfu stated that a fight with the United States would be an “unbearable disaster” but that his nation preferred dialogue over confrontation at Asia’s top security forum on Sunday.
Li stated the world was big enough for China and the US to develop together while speaking at the Shangri-La Dialogue in Singapore. Li made these comments just days after declining to hold direct conversations with his American counterpart.
Li Shangfu, speaking at an important global address which was his first such soon after he became China’s Minister of National Defence in March, said, “China and the US have different systems and are different in many other ways.”
He also said, “However, this should not keep the two sides from seeking common ground and common interests to grow bilateral ties and deepen cooperation. It is undeniable that a severe conflict or confrontation between China and the US will be an unbearable disaster for the world.”
On the 34th anniversary of the Tiananmen Square crackdown in 1989, Li delivered a speech while donning the general’s uniform of the People’s Liberation Army.
Over a number of problems, including Taiwan’s democratically elected government, territorial disputes in the South China Sea, and President Joe Biden’s export restrictions on semiconductor chips, relations between Washington and Beijing are severely strained.
The United States Navy said on Saturday that a Chinese destroyer made “unsafe” maneuvers close to a US warship in the Taiwan Straits, emphasizing the dangers as summit participants discussed the likelihood of mishaps and errors amid these tensions.
China’s military condemned the United States and Canada for “deliberately provoking risk” after their warships conducted a rare joint sailing through the delicate strait.
Li was more tactful in his speech, but he took a little cautious jibe at the United States alleging “some countries” of escalating an arms race and meddling on purpose in other countries’ domestic affairs. “A Cold War mentality is now resurgent, greatly increasing security risks,” he said. “Mutual respect should prevail over bullying and hegemony.”
Despite repeated US demands for more military exchanges, the Chinese delegate did not have intense conversation with his counterpart. However, Li, who was sanctioned by the United States in 2018 for buying weapons from Russia, fulfilled the diplomatic formality by shaking hands with US Defence Minister Lloyd James Austin at a dinner on Friday.
Senior intelligence officers from both sides attended a secret meeting of spy chiefs in Singapore on the sidelines of the summit in addition to the speeches and panel discussions, according to British news agency Reuters on Sunday.