This past weekend, a key message was delivered by China’s Defense Minister, Li Shangfu, at the important Shangri-La Dialogue security summit. He said that any possible future disagreement between the United States and China could lead to a “worldwide catastrophe” that nobody could handle.
However, he expressed hope. Li said that these two strong nations, rather than clashing, should learn to prosper together. This statement came just as the US voiced strong disapproval over what it viewed as unsafe and hostile actions by a Chinese naval ship in the Taiwan Strait. This incident occurred while the US destroyer, the USS Chung-Hoon, was making its “freedom of navigation” journey on Saturday.
Li made it clear, “The world cannot bear the burden if a serious clash happens between China and the US.” During the summit, the senior Chinese defense official declined a formal, one-on-one meeting with his American counterpart, Lloyd Austin. However, they did share a polite handshake.
Having assumed his position in March, Li added that China believes a great power should behave appropriately, instead of stirring up trouble for its own gain. He requested Washington to “take solid steps” to find a middle ground with China. This plea is in response to the downward spiral of their relations, which took a sharp turn when the US shot down a Chinese ‘spy balloon’ in early February.
Li, without mentioning the US, also hinted during the defense summit that “a certain country” follows a path of “exceptionalism and double standards” which serves the interests of only a select few nations.
He emphasized that China remains “strongly against forcing one’s own will on others, placing one’s interests above others, and seeking one’s security at the cost of others.”
Presently, there are harsh exchanges between Washington and Beijing over the recent close call involving US and Chinese warships near Taiwan.
Upon assuming his role in March, Gen. Li warned his nation and military against those trying to misuse the “freedom of navigation” patrols for their dominance.
He continues to face US sanctions – a hurdle that has hindered conversations with US defense officials and the Biden administration. China has insisted that the US must first lift these sanctions on him before any direct military discussions can take place.