SINGAPORE: The escalating rivalry between the US and China is set for a long haul. A day after US Acting Defence Secretary Patrick Shanahan accused China of eroding the rules-based international order, Chinese Defence Minister and State Councilor General Wei Fenghe sent a strong message across that China is ready to fight the US on trade “till the end,” but the door is still open for talks.
“On the trade friction started by the US: if the US wants to talk, we will keep the door open. If they want to fight, we are ready,” General Wei said at the Shangri-La Dialogue on June 2.
“Bully us? No way,” he added.
Wei is the first Chinese defence minister to attend the Shangri-La Dialogue since 2011.
Alluding to the US’ position on the South China Sea, Gen. Wei said that there are “people trying to rake in profits by stirring up troubles in the region.” He claimed that the situation in South China Sea is improving towards greater stability. He defended China’s building of islands on rocks and reefs in the contested waters, saying “it is the legitimate rights of a sovereign state to carry out construction on its own territory”.
Speaking to an audience, comprising defence ministers, officials and eminent strategic experts, Gen . Wei also justified the building of military facilities on these reclaimed islands. “In the face of heavily armed warships and military aircraft, how can we stay impervious and not build some defence facilities?”
Gen. Wei also leveraged the Shangri-La Dialogue forum to warn the US of any adventurism on the Taiwan question, and underlined that “foreign intervention in the Taiwan question is doomed to failure”.
“If anyone dares to split Taiwan from China, the Chinese military has no choice but to fight at all costs for national unity,” he said.
He lashed out at the US of interfering in China’s affairs through its Taiwan Relations Act, which governs Washington’s relations with the self-ruled island. “We can find no justifiable reasons for the US to interfere in the Taiwan question by its domestic law,” he said.
Going by the tone and tenor of Gen. Wei’s speech at the influential security forum, the US-China tensions and the ongoing trade war is unlikely to see any resolution in the near term. Gen. Wei’s remarks also suggest that the positions of the US and China on the South China Sea dispute will continue to remain starkly divergent, thereby raising the risks of escalation.
- Manish Chand is Founder-CEO and Editor-in-Chief of India Writes Network (www.indiawrites.org) and India and World, a pioneering magazine focused on international affairs. He is CEO/Director of TGII Media Private Limited, an India-based media, publishing, research and consultancy company.
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