By David Brunnstrom and David Lawder
NEWYORK (Reuters) – China’s top diplomat hit back at U.S. criticism on Tuesday, saying Beijing had no intention to “play the Game of Thrones on the world stage” and would respect U.S. interests, but it would not be threatened on trade or allow interference in its affairs, including Hong Kong.
In an address on the sidelines of the annual United Nations General Assembly in New York, Wang Yi, China’s foreign minister and state councillor, urged a move away from confrontation between the two biggest global economies, saying they should cooperate for mutual benefit and for that of rest of the world.
Earlier on Tuesday, U.S. President Donald Trump had a stern message for China and its president, Xi Jinping, in his speech at the United Nations General Assembly.
Trump, who launched a trade war with China that’s damaging both countries, delivered a stinging rebuke to Beijing’s trade practices and said he would not accept a “bad deal” in U.S.-China trade negotiations.
He also warned that the world was watching how Beijing handles mass demonstrations in Hong Kong that have heightened fears of a potential Chinese crackdown.
Trump has sought to pressure China to agree to reduce trade barriers through a policy of increasing tariffs on Chinese products. He accused China of the theft of trade secrets “on a grand scale” and said it was taking advantage of World Trade Organisation rules that give Beijing beneficial treatment as a “developing economy”.
Wang Yi told an event organised by the U.S.-China Business Council that China hoped for a positive outcome from the next round of trade talks with the United States due to take place in October.
But he said negotiations must be based on mutual respect and could not take place under threats.
Wang rejected the views of those who believe Beijing is aiming to surpass the United States as a strategic power, saying “seeking hegemony is not in our DNA” and said China was a developing country still far behind the United States.
“China has no intention to play the game of thrones on the world stage. For now and for the foreseeable future, the United States is and will still be the strongest country in the world.”
At the same time, he said the two countries need to stick to the principles of non-interference in each other’s internal affairs, respect each other’s territorial sovereignty, and not attempt to impose their will on each other.
He said that to maintain Hong Kong’s prosperity it was necessary to reject violence and respect the rule of law.
“We hope the U.S. will be consistent in its words and actions, respect China’s sovereignty and respect the efforts of the Hong Kong … government to stop violence and restore order,” he said.
Wang also shot back at heightened U.S. criticism of China’s treatment of its Muslim minority in the western region of Xinjiang, saying the actions Beijing had taken there were to prevent extremism and terrorism.
In another event on the sidelines of the U.N. assembly on Tuesday, the United States led more than 30 countries in condemning what it called China’s “horrific campaign of repression” against Muslims in Xinjiang.
(Reporting by David Brunnstrom and David Lawder; Editing by Richard Borsuk)