With the on-again-off-again trade war detente back in "off again" mode as China is once again refusing to bow to the US's demands for concessions, and with military tensions simmering in the background as the US seriously considers withdrawing from the INF, the Communist Party's top defense official demanded that the US end its aggressive policy toward China during a speech at the Xiangshan security forum in Beijing in front of a crowd of 500 foreign delegates from 74 countries (including the US).
According to the South China Morning Post, Wei Fenghe, the Chinese defense minister, criticized Washington for "seriously damaging the Sino-US relationship and mutual trust" by accusing China of interfering in the midterm elections and by characterizing China's "debt diplomacy" as a neo-colonialist tool for acquiring foreign resources for its "One Belt, One Road" initiative.
Without referencing Pence by name (the Vice President delivered one of the most sweeping condemnations of China's foreign and economic policies during a speech earlier this month), Wei articulated China's "anger and resolute opposition" and demanded that the Trump Administration drop its aggressive posture toward China. "We strongly call on the US to remedy the mistakes, stop damaging China’s interests and the Sino-US relationship."
The remarks followed similarly hostile remarks directed at Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, who became embroiled in a dramatic confrontation with China's foreign minister during a recent trip to Beijing.
In the latest sign that the Trump Administration's friendly stance toward Taiwan has rattled China, Wei, reiterating a threat made by numerous senior Chinese officials, warned that the mainland wouldn't hesitate to bring the full brunt of is military to bear against Taiwan - and any country aiding the Taiwanese - if its rogue province tries to formally break away from the mainland.
Another senior CCP official, Li Zhanshu, a trusted ally of President Xi Jinping, issued a similar warning during the conference's opening remarks on Wednesday. Li, chairman of the National People’s Congress and the third-highest-ranking official on the Politburo Standing Committee, denounced "confrontational thinking" - a veiled attack on the Trump administration's policy.
He condemned what he implied were recent efforts by world powers to push other nations to form an alliance against China.
"The alignment is a small group that engages in exclusivity, and aimed at third parties," Li told the dinner without naming the US.
"This confrontational thinking is an important reason for global unrest, and the main source of all international hotspot issues."
A "Beijing-based source" (code for a senior Communist Party official) told the SCMP that Li’s aggressive speech represented Xi’s thoughts on the US-China trade war.
"Xi wants the trade row with US to stop as soon as possible, which he believes is also the common hope of some American politicians and entrepreneurs," said the source, who spoke on condition of anonymity because of the issue’s sensitivity．
Li said China’s adherence to the principle of formal non-alignment with or against any major power bloc was the way to go in international relations.
Dealing only with “the concept of reciprocity and win-win”, China advocated partnerships that sought “common ground” and “not aimed at third parties”, he said.
China “respects the choices of people all over the world for their independent social system and development approaches”, he said.
In the era of the global village, “no country can independently deal with all the challenges that humankind is facing, and no country can return to a self-enclosed system”, Li said.
Li added that cooperation was "the only choice" for the US if it hopes to have cordial relations with China, and that the two sides should try to resolve their issues with "dialogue and consultation."
"Cooperation is the only correct choice for Sino-US relations: both sides will be hurt if they fight each other," he said.
"The two sides should properly resolve problems through dialogue and consultation to ensure that Sino-US relations move along the right track."
On top of the trade war, China-US relations have been hurt by US accusations that Beijing is trying to interfere in the upcoming US midterm elections.
"Some countries have adopted a series of wrong practices on the Taiwan issue, damaging the peace and stability of the Taiwan Strait and threatening the region and peace," Li said.
"[Beijing] firmly opposes [those independent moves] and will keep sticking to the principle of ‘peaceful reunification, one country, two systems’."
It would also continue to "strive for the prospect of peaceful reunification with the utmost sincerity and best efforts," he said.
The Xiangshan Forum has become a platform for China to try and persuade foreigner officials that its claims on the South China Sea should be respected - and that the US should seriously consider removing its weapons from the South Korean peninsula. Two issues that the US will likely never give up on.