Shangri-La Dialogue: China does not intend to vie with US for No. 1 position, says Gen Wei

China does not have the intention nor capacity to vie for the No. 1 position in the world with the United States, Chinese Defence Minister Wei Fenghe said yesterday as he told a summit of defence ministers and military leaders that his country is committed to a path of peaceful development.

"All countries need to depend on each other for their own development. Conflict, confrontation between countries, including that between China and the US, does not serve the interest of the two peoples and does not serve the interest of the whole world," he said at the Shangri-La Dialogue.

The question-and-answer session that followed his much-anticipated address exceeded its allotted time, with 16 questions on a range of issues including security, trade, the US' ban on Huawei, Xinjiang, terrorism and cyber security.

Answering in Mandarin, General Wei said: "If you give me enough time, I will answer all."

To questions on how China sees its role in the region vis-a-vis the US, he said: "China and the US are two major countries and no one can defeat each other. A sound and stable relationship between the two countries, particularly a sound and stable relationship between the two militaries, is very important to the two sides... and important to the stability and peace of the whole region."

The Chinese general also sought to allay any concerns that China has ambitions to be the "No. 1 in the world... a hegemon in the world".

He said: "The issue that is cared about most is whether China will seek hegemony. I would like to invite you to think: Who has China invaded? Since the founding of the People's Republic of China, we have never invaded. And those wars forced upon us, we have never taken an inch of others' land.

 
 
 

"We have not achieved what we have today by colonial exploitation… Who uses this approach, I think it is clear to many. And China will never do that."

Gen Wei also said China had never capitalised on its size or strength to bully smaller countries.

Asked about the modernisation of the People's Liberation Army, he said it was to defend China's sovereignty.

On the US ban on Huawei, Gen Wei said China was resolutely against such sanctions on private companies.

He said just because the former head of the company had served in the army did not mean the company was "part of the military", adding that many army officials have gone on to set up companies around the world after retirement.

He also touched on the issue of terrorism and the restive Xinjiang region, where the Chinese government has set up so-called re-education camps. He defended China's policy, saying there has not been a single terrorist attack there.

 
A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on June 03, 2019, with the headline 'China does not intend to vie with US for No. 1 position: Gen Wei'. Print Edition | Subscribe