China’s Foreign Minister Urges Cooperation With U.S.

China’s Foreign Minister Urges Cooperation With U.S.

Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi urged the U.S. to “calm down” and step back from confrontation, in a toughly worded speech highlighting simmering disputes between the two largest economies even as they neared a preliminary trade deal.

Wang said Friday in Beijing that U.S. actions on a range of issues had “severely damaged the hard-earned basis for mutual trust” and left the relationship in their “most complex” state since the two sides established ties four decades ago. In unusually detailed remarks for a Chinese foreign minister, Wang accused U.S. officials of “slandering China’s social system, development path and cooperation with other countries.”

“We hope that the U.S. side will promptly calm down, establish a rational view toward China and the world, and work together with China to realize a non-confrontational, mutually respectful, win-win path toward peaceful co-existence and mutual benefit,” Wang told a diplomatic conference. He blamed their tensions on what he said was the U.S. government’s flawed understanding China, and stressed the need for cooperation.

The criticism by one of China’s top diplomats underscores the strategic conflict that has widened between the two sides amid the trade war. The economic dispute has encouraged a bipartisan effort in Washington to push back against China’s expanding military and diplomatic reach and challenge its human rights practices in places like the former British colony of Hong Kong and the predominately Muslim region of Xinjiang.

Wang’s comments were part of broader speech assessing the country’s diplomatic activities over the past 12 months, and came hours after President Donald Trump is said to have signed off on a so-called phase-one trade deal with China. Beijing has yet to comment on the agreement, which people familiar with Trump’s decision said would avert the Dec. 15 introduction of a new wave of U.S. tariffs on about $160 billion of Chinese consumer goods.

The comments by China’s foreign minister will set the tone for the country’s diplomatic exchanges with the U.S. at least until the next remarks by President Xi Jinping or other top Communist Party officials. Criticism of the U.S. help give Xi political cover, as he makes concessions to a country that state-run media have increasingly portrayed as a foreign aggressor.