Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi warned in an interview with the state-run People’s Daily that the fates of his nation and that of America are intertwined, with no “individual’s will” strong enough to untangle them. His remarks appear to be directed at President-elect Donald Trump, who has made confronting China economically and politically a staple of his policies.
The interview appeared Thursday in the Mandarin-language People’s Daily, according to Reuters, which notes that Wang was not blindly optimistic about the future dealings between the Chinese Communists and the Trump administration. “Of course, going forward China-U.S. relations will face new complexities and uncertain factors,” he noted.
“We will lead the way amid a shake-up in global governance, we will take hold of the situation amid international chaos, we will protect our interests amid intense and complex games,” he asserted. Specifically regarding America, he added, “Only if China and the United States respect each and give consideration to other’s core interests and key concerns can there be long-term, stable cooperation, and effect win-win mutual benefit.”
Paramount among those “core interests” for China is the integrity of the Chinese empire, which contains the rebel regions of Hong Kong, Taiwan, Xinjiang, and Tibet, all home to separatist movements. Chinese officials appeared especially alarmed earlier this month when President-elect Trump accepted a call from Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen and appeared to treat her as a fellow head of state.
“I fully understand the ‘one China’ policy, but I don’t know why we have to be bound by a ‘one China’ policy unless we make a deal with China having to do with other things, including trade,” Trump later said in an interview after his call with Tsai.
Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Geng Shuang referred to the undermining of Taiwan’s sovereignty as a Beijing “core interest” in light of that incident, demanding Washington adhere to “One China”–or any cooperation would be “out of the question.”
Wang’s tone in the most recent interview read as more conciliatory. “Thick mountains could not stop the river from flowing into the sea,” he said, referencing an ancient Chinese poem, and calling the positive development of the bilateral relationship “a historical trend that can’t be altered by an individual’s will, and is the correct direction for the development of China-U.S. ties.”
Yet the Foreign Minister’s statements follow a particularly tense week in U.S.-China relations independent of Trump’s campaign promises to implement trade policies that benefit the American worker and diminish Chinese influence in the U.S. market. Last week, China seized an unmanned American underwater drone from Philippine waters in the South China Sea, threatening to keep it and any “valuable information” it may have gleamed from the ocean floor.
While China ultimately returned the drone, the Pentagon lodged a stern protest regarding the theft, particularly since Chinese ships had no reason to be monitoring the region. “This incident was inconsistent with both international law and standards of professionalism for conduct between navies at sea,” Pentagon press secretary Peter Cook said, with the Pentagon demanding in a statement that China cease “further efforts to impede lawful U.S. activities.”