China Does Not Want U.S. Conflict but Will Defend Itself: Foreign Minister

China's foreign minister has called on the U.S. to adopt a more peaceful and collaborative approach to Beijing amid frosty relations between the world's two largest economies.

Wang Yi said Thursday that the U.S. and China were facing the biggest challenge since the establishment of full diplomatic ties in 1979.

Wang addressed a virtual forum on U.S.-China relations Thursday, warning that too many people in Washington, D.C. now see China as an adversary or "enemy" amid poor bilateral relations, Chinese state media reported.

Trade tensions, territorial disputes, human rights abuses and the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic have all undermined U.S.-China ties since President Donald Trump came into office.

His term has coincided with a broad realization in many democratic nations that authoritarian China poses a challenge to the liberal world order so long led by the U.S. and its allies.

China has loomed large over Trump's presidency and is set to be a key issue in the November election. Both Trump and presumptive Democratic challenger former Vice President Joe Biden have been bolstering their China-skeptic credentials in recent months, driven by concerns that Beijing misled the international community about the severity and course of COVID-19.

China has sought to dodge blame for the disaster while maligning the U.S. and Western response to the outbreak. Beijing has been accused of a broad disinformation campaign to absolve itself of responsibility for the pandemic, prompting criticism from democracies around the world.

The pandemic is the most recent element in the brewing contest between the U.S. and China which looks set to dominate the coming decades. Wang said Beijing has no interest in such a confrontation, despite the steps China has taken to challenge the U.S. in East Asia and beyond.

"China never intends to challenge or replace the U.S. and has no intention to engage in an all-out confrontation with the U.S.," Wang said. "What we care about most is to improve the wellbeing of our people, what we value most is the rejuvenation of the Chinese nation, and what we expect most is peace and stability in the world."

Still, China will defend its sovereignty and interests regardless of "bullying" by the U.S. or other nations, Wang said according to the state-run CGTN channel.

China has repeatedly accused the U.S. and other nations of meddling in its domestic affairs over human rights abuses in Hong Kong and Xinjiang. Beijing also considers the democratic nation of Taiwan part of a "One China," and has condemned the U.S. for backing the island's independence.

Some democratic nations are beginning to re-evaluate their ties with Beijing, recognizing that the commercially-driven engagement of recent decades has not encouraged China to liberalize, but has rather strengthened the authoritarian CCP.

But Wang said Thursday that China would not deviate from its own path, regardless of criticism from the international community. "We hope the U.S. can build a more objective and calm understanding of China and formulate a more rational and pragmatic China policy," Wang said.

"China is committed to the path of socialism with Chinese characteristics," Wang said, referring to the Chinese Communist Party's unique and flexible ideology. "It is a path suited to China's national conditions and a choice made by the Chinese people," he added, lauding Beijing's success in lifting its citizens out of poverty.

"China and the U.S. should not seek to change each other, but should jointly explore ways for peaceful coexistence," Wang told forum attendees. "China will not and cannot become another America."

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Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi is pictured during an event at the Great Hall Of The People on May 24, 2020 in Beijing, China. Andrea Verdelli/Getty Images/Getty