China warns US against imposing its democratic ideals, urges restrain of forces in nearby seas

The remarks came after US President Joe Biden said America was in competition with China to win the 21st century.
The remarks came after US President Joe Biden said America was in competition with China to win the 21st century.PHOTO: REUTERS

BEIJING (AFP, REUTERS) - China warned the United States on Thursday (April 29) against imposing its democratic ideals, while criticising trade sanctions and military moves in Beijing's backyard, just hours after President Joe Biden's speech on American geopolitical priorities.

The remarks came after Mr Biden's first address to Congress, in which the US leader placed a renewed focus on diplomacy and said the country was in competition with China and others to win the 21st century.

Mr Biden added that "autocrats think democracies can't compete", while noting the US welcomes competition and is not looking for conflict.

Asked about the speech, Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin said it was normal for the US and China to compete in some areas.

"But this kind of competition should be a track and field race, not a duel to the death," he told a regular press briefing on Thursday.

Mr Wang also warned that "forcing other countries to accept one's democratic system... will only create divisions, intensify tension, and undermine stability."

In his speech, President Biden also said the US would stand up to unfair trade practices such as subsidies for state-owned enterprises and intellectual property theft.

But China lashed out a day later at the US for "violating the market principle of fair competition" and "politicising" issues such as the economy, trade and technology, in reference to the trade war between both countries in recent years.

"China is committed to developing a relationship with the US based on non-conflict and non-confrontation," Mr Wang said.

While Mr Biden said he told Chinese President Xi Jinping the US would maintain a strong military presence in the Indo-Pacific to prevent conflict - just as it did with Nato in Europe - China highlighted issues with US deployments in the region.

China's defence ministry spokesman Wu Qian added in a separate statement on Thursday that, since the inauguration of the current US government, the frequency of US warships sent to China's maritime territory increased by 20 per cent from last year.

The frequency of reconnaissance aircraft activity in the region also increased by 40 per cent, Mr Wu added, saying that China "resolutely opposes this".

"The US frequently sends warships and planes to carry out activities in maritime waters and airspace near China, advancing regional militarisation and threatening regional peace and stability," he said.

Asked for a response, Biden’s National Security Council referred Reuters to the US Department of Defence, which declined to comment.

The US Navy earlier this month took the rare step of publishing a photo on its main website of a US guided missile destroyer, the USS Mustin, watching China’s Liaoning aircraft carrier carry out an exercise.  

Wu said the USS Mustin had interfered with the Chinese exercise and threatened the freedom of navigation of both vessels and the safety of their crews. He said Chinese Navy ships warned away the Mustin and Beijing had lodged a formal complaint to the United States over the matter.

“The aircraft carrier is no ‘homebody’. It will routinely train in seas further from its shore.”

Biden has maintained a tough-on-China stance inherited from the Trump administration. That has included more visible support for Taiwan, angering China, which deems the island part of its territory and sees Washington as giving succour to Taiwanese seeking independence, a red line for Beijing.  

Citing a US$715 billion US defence budget request which the Biden administration has said will be used primarily to meet the challenge of China, Wu said some US officials suffer from“persecutory delusion”.

He said “their hype” about an alleged China threat could become a self-fulfilling prophecy.