All of China's People Support Communist Party, Government Says, Accusing U.S. of Stirring Up Conflict

The Chinese government has defended its backing among its people, saying the world's largest population in its entirety backed the ruling Communist Party and that it was the United States that was trying to stir up unrest.

Hitting back at Defense Secretary Mark Esper's classification of not only China itself but also its official Communist state ideology as an existential threat to the U.S., Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Wang Wenbin said at a press conference Monday in Beijing that the Chinese Communist Party "is the fundamental guarantee for China's development and renewal, and a force contributing to world peace and common development."

"The United States should respect and acknowledge the reality that the Communist Party of China is supported and endorsed by the Chinese people, rather than wantonly smear its image, sow discord between the Communist Party of China and the Chinese people, and fan up an ideological confrontation and form a clique on the international stage," he added.

Wang told reporters that China "is committed to developing a China-U.S. relationship featuring non-conflict, non-confrontation, mutual respect and win-win cooperation, while firmly defending our sovereignty, security and development interests."

china, pro, beijing, rally, hong, kong
Pro-Beijing supporters wave Chinese national flags and sing the national anthem during a rally in celebration of the passing of a national security law on June 30 in Hong Kong, China. The law expands the government's ability to crack down on those seeking a greater separation from the mainland's rule, angering critics like the United States and the United Kingdom. Anthony Kwan/Getty Images

The relationship between the two major powers have soured significantly in recent years and especially since the outbreak of the novel coronavirus that gripped China and the rest of the world, hitting the U.S. the hardest. Upon this backdrop, economic and geopolitical frictions have also been aggravated, with a spotlight on military tensions.

In a phone interview published in part by the Pentagon, Esper spoke of a new "era of great power competition" in which he singled out China and Russia as strategic competitors, characterizing China as "the bigger problem" because it "has the population and economy to displace the United States."

"It's very clear to me and anybody who understands China that they have the ambition to displace us—certainly from the region and preferably on the global stage," Esper was quoted as saying, emphasizing a perceived threat from the Chinese Communist Party itself.

"They put the party first," he said, according to the Pentagon report. "The [Chinese] military ... is loyal to the [communist] party. Our military has a sworn oath to defend the Constitution. We have very different ambitions ... and very different value sets. And if we don't wake up to the long-term challenge and the possible threat that China presents to us, then we may find ourselves living in a world different [from] what we want to live in."

The remarks were met with outrage in Beijing, where official Chinese Communist Party organ Global Times assessed his remarks as an indication "that the US is going to take China more seriously in military terms, and even imagine China as a target for war" in an article based on an interview with an unnamed local naval expert.

Tensions have been prevalent in the South China Sea, where last week Secretary of State Mike Pompeo officially challenged Beijing's widespread claims to territory also claimed by other Asia-Pacific countries. The U.S. and China have both stepped up their military presence in the strategic, resource-rich region.

These escalations follow a flare-up in Washington and Beijing's political feud in the aftermath of China's passage of a national security law cracking down on separatist currents in the semi-autonomous city of Hong Kong. The former United Kingdom colony has been governed under a "One Country, Two Systems" framework that countries such as Australia, Canada, the U.K. and the U.S. fear will erode the civil liberties and freedoms of the special administrative region.

Beijing has argued the Hong Kong dispute and other territorial issues, such as that of self-ruling, U.S.-backed Taiwan, fall under the sovereignty of the Chinese government, leaving no room for external interference.