Chinese Defense Minister Li Shangfu delivered a speech at the Shangri-La Dialogue in Singapore and said a conflict between the US and China would be an “unbearable disaster,” a warning that comes amid soaring tensions between the two powers.
“It is undeniable that a severe conflict or confrontation between China and the US will be an unbearable disaster for the world,” said Li, who was appointed defense minister in March.
Li delivered the warning while calling for more dialogue between the US and China, saying the two nations should seek “common ground and common interests to grow bilateral ties and deepen cooperation.”
China declined to hold a meeting between its defense minister and Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin at the conference because the US has refused to lift sanctions that were imposed on Li in 2018 due to his role in purchasing Russian military equipment.
While the US refused to lift the sanctions and has taken a hard line against China, it still blames Beijing for the lack of dialogue. In his speech at the conference, Austin said he was “deeply concerned that the PRC [People’s Republic of China] has been unwilling to engage more seriously on better mechanisms for crisis management between our two militaries.”
Li offered veiled criticism of the US in his speech, saying “some country” likes to enforce rules on others. “Its so-called rules-based international order never tells you what the rules are, and who made these rules,” he said. “It practices exceptionalism and double standards and only serves the interests and follows the rules of a small number of countries.”
Li also reaffirmed China’s position on Taiwan and delivered a warning to the US and the ruling party in Taipei, the independence-leaning Democratic Progressive Party. The US has been ignoring China’s warnings on Taiwan and continues to increase military and diplomatic support for the island.
“If anyone dares to separate Taiwan from China, the Chinese military will not hesitate for a second, we will fear no opponents and resolutely safeguard national sovereignty and territorial integrity regardless of any cost,” Li said.