China Blasts 'Racist' U.S. Statement Calling It First 'Great Power Competitor That Is Not Caucasian'

China criticized a State Department official's recent statement suggesting that the U.S needed a different approach toward Beijing's global rise because it represented a society that isn't "Caucasian."

Addressing the Future Security Forum last week in Washington, State Department Policy Planning Director Kiron Skinner discussed the administration's outlook on the unique "long-term threat" presented by China, which is "a fight with a really different civilization." She said the decadeslong Cold War between the U.S. and the Soviet Union "was a fight within the Western family."

On the other hand, after noting how China presented an economic challenge as well as a military one, Skinner said "it's also striking that it's the first time that we will have a great power competitor that is not Caucasian."

The controversial comments stirred major backlash from a number of observers who considered Skinner's remarks racist. Asked about China's reaction on Monday, Foreign Ministry spokesperson Geng Shuang told reporters that "it is simply absurd and utterly unacceptable to look at China-U.S. relations from a clash-of-civilizations or even racist perspective, which deserves every harsh rebuke and resolute opposition."

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American and Chinese flags fly at a welcoming ceremony between Chinese President Xi Jinping and President Donald Trump in Beijing on November 9, 2017. The world's top two economies have undergone a tense period as the U.S. attempts to contain China's growing global influence. Thomas Peter-Pool/Getty Images

Skinner justified her position when pressed at the event, arguing, "It's extremely relevant because the foreign policy establishment is so narrowly defined; it's more homogenous than probably it should be, given our own demographics." She said that "having diversity in all dimensions really does help you get ready for the future."

Still, the remarks inspired critical op-eds in major news outlets such as The Washington Post, Bloomberg News and Foreign Policy. Speaking to Newsweek on May 2, Cheng Li, director of the Brookings Institution's John L. Thornton China Center, asserted that "our foreign policy is not based on race" and warned that such rhetoric might only alienate Chinese-Americans and bolster the message of China's ruling Communist Party.

The Global Times, a tabloid-like arm of the official Chinese Communist Party, published an editorial Sunday railing against the remarks, which the publication claimed belied a U.S. plan that "clearly centered on Western civilization and discriminates against Chinese civilization."

"Friction between China and the West has mainly resulted from China's opposition to the West's interference in China's internal affairs. The Chinese people are not egotistical and have no ambition to dominate the world with China's social value system," the outlet wrote. "Hence, fights between civilizations will never occur. Striking a balance between China and the U.S. is in the best interest of the West and all other countries and regions around the world rather than siding with the U.S. to contain China. The U.S. Department of State led by Pompeo is trying to mislead the world, but the world is not as stupid as they think it is."

Chen Weihua, the EU bureau chief of fellow Communist Party–owned newspaper China Daily, also criticized Skinner on Sunday, calling her words a "Nazi type racist comment" on Twitter. He said U.S. suspicion about Japan's economic rise in the 1980s and 90s "might also be based on this non Caucasian racist mindset."

At Monday's press briefing, however, Geng stressed a message of bilateral unity, arguing that "the past and the present have fully attested that China and the U.S. stand to gain from cooperation and lose from confrontation, and that cooperation is the only correct choice for both sides." He called on "relevant individuals to get rid of the outdated Cold War mentality, ideology and racial bias and look at China and China-U.S. relations correctly."

The concept of a post–Cold War "clash of civilizations" was first proposed by political scientist Samuel P. Huntington in the early 1990s. His theory, which produced major debate in the field of international relations, laid out a geopolitical struggle for global influence among nine "civilizations": Western, Latin American, Islamic, Sinic (Chinese), Hindu, Buddhist, Orthodox (including Russia and other Eastern European and Eurasian societies with major Orthodox Christian communities), Japanese and African.

The idea was met with international criticism, with China one of the most vocal detractors. Former Iranian President Mohammad Khatami introduced his "dialogue among civilizations" countertheory shortly afterward, and then–Prime Ministers José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero of Spain and Recep Tayyip Erdoğan of Turkey launched the United Nations Alliance of Civilizations initiative in 2005 to promote intercultural communications, especially between the West and Muslim worlds.

China Blasts 'Racist' U.S. Statement Calling It First 'Great Power Competitor That Is Not Caucasian' | World