China’s goal is not to replace the United States as the world’s leading country, the Chinese Ambassador to the US said Thursday.
“Our goal is to meet the growing inspiration of the Chinese people for better life. Our goal is not to compete with, or replace any other country,” Cui Tiankai told CNN’s Christiane Amanpour in an exclusive interview.
“This has never been our national strategy,” Cui added.
The Chinese Ambassador was responding to comments made earlier on Thursday by US President Joe Biden, who said that China had “an overall goal of becoming the leading country in the world, the wealthiest country in the world and the most powerful country in the world.”
“It’s not going to happen on my watch,” added Biden, who spoke at length about his administration’s goals with China during his first presidential news conference on Thursday.
Biden’s remarks followed an acrimonious first face-to-face meeting between US and Chinese officials in Anchorage, Alaska last week, where US Secretary of State Antony Blinken’s statement that the Biden administration would bring up “deep concerns” about some of China’s actions around the world was met with immediate pushback from Chinese counterparts.
Thursday’s tone was far more conciliatory. The Ambassador called the Alaska talks “a timely one,” and “helpful,” adding it “it certainly helped both sides to have a better understanding of the other.”
Cui told CNN: “What today’s world wants, and what tomorrow’s world would want, is to join efforts by all countries to build a community of nations for a shared future.”
“We don’t think any attempt to divide the world into different camps or even build confrontational military approach, we don’t think this kind of approach is a solution. Actually, this is a problem in itself,” he said.
Pressed to respond on accusations made by Biden that China is not playing by international rules on fair competition, Cui said: “We’ll have no problem with open and fair competition – actually we very much stand for that.”
However, he added that “past mistakes” would have to be “corrected” as a precondition to fair competition: “How can we have fair competition when Chinese companies are discriminated against? When Chinese senior CEOs are detained without any reason? When there’s such clear attempt to politicize everything. When there’s such an attempt of nationalism and protectionism against international rules? So in order to have open, fair competition, past mistakes will have to be corrected first.”
Huawei executive Meng Wanzhou is currently fighting extradition to the United States, where she is wanted for allegedly breaching sanctions against Iran.
Calling out human rights abuses
In the wide-ranging interview, Ciu also responded to CNN’s reporting on Uyghur children who have been separated from their families and kept from leaving China’s Xinjiang region.
The Ambassador inaccurately described the report as false, as well as “immoral,” claims which Amanpour rebutted, explaining, “This was not manipulated. This was parents desperate, can’t find their children, want to try to be reunited with their children, and the reporter did his journalistic duty. It’s called investigative reporting.”
In a recent report, Amnesty International estimated China’s polices towards ethnic Uyghurs has split up thousands of families, as some children are prevented from leaving China’s Xinjiang region to be with their parents living abroad. CNN traveled to the heavily surveilled region and found some of the children left behind.
Pressed by Amanpour to respond to a Newslines Institute for Strategy and Policy report that China is allegedly conducting policies of mass internment, mass birth-prevention, forcible transfer of Uyghur children to state-run facilities, the eradication of Uyghur identity and culture as well as selective targeting of intellectual and community leaders, Ciu responded, “China is not doing these things.”
“It is very unfortunate that some people, including some journalists, they start with very strong bias and prejudice, that’s their problem. That’s how they come to very different conclusions about particular situations, very much against real facts,” he added.
CNN has previously reported numerous allegations of abuse of detained Uyghurs in China. As many as two million people may have been taken to internment camps in the Xinjiang region, according to the US State Department.
Chinese authorities have cast the camps as “education centers” to curb extremism. Cui on Thursday echoed that point, telling Amanpour that “the government had to do something” to prevent possible terror attacks in the region.
“What we did was not to start a war there. We did not use missiles or drones. We set up efforts for education and training, help people learn more about the law, to acquire good skills to improve their lives and find good jobs. And all these have made a huge difference. There’s been no single terrorist attack in the last few years,” he said.
On Thursday, Biden said he’d made it clear to Chinese president Xi Jinping that the US will continue to call out China’s human rights abuses. “America values human rights. We don’t always live up to our expectations but it’s a value system. We are founded on that principle,” Biden said.
“And as long as you and your country continues to so blatantly violate human rights, we are going to continue in an unrelenting way to call to the attention of the world and make it clear and make it clear what’s happening,” Biden added.
On Monday, the US announced sanctions against two Chinese government officials for “human rights abuses” against minorities in Xinjiang including of Uyghur Muslims. The European Union also announced its sanctions Monday, naming Zhu Hailun, former head of the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region (XUAR), and three other top officials.
Ciu told Amanpour that he had been to Xinjiang “more than once in recent years,” saying, “what I saw is a very different story, a very different picture from the reporting.”
He added that the first principle set out in the United Nations Charter of sovereign equality of all members, and the obligation of all UN members to refrain from threat or use of force against territorial integrity and political independence of any state, were “rules that every country should follow.”
“So if people are interested in these rules, maybe they should start by reading the Charter first. If people really want to show us the power of example, I would suggest they could very well start with their own compliance with all these truly universally-agreed principles,” he said.
CNN’s Kara Fox contributed to this report.