Chinese State Councilor and Foreign Minister Wang Yi said in New York on Tuesday that while his country has no intention of unseating the U.S. as the world leader, China expects America to “remove all unreasonable restrictions.”
"China-U.S. relations today have once again come to a cross roads," Wang said, through a translator of his Mandarin-language remarks at a dinner co-hosted by the National Committee on U.S.-China Relations and The US-China Business Council.
"While China opens wider to the U.S. and the rest of the world, we expect the U.S. to do the same to China and remove all unreasonable restrictions," Wang said. "In a word, China's efforts and achievements of reform and opening up in the past several decades have been widely recognized. They should not be deliberately ignored or denied."
Wang's remarks come as the world's two largest economies are locked in escalating trade tensions centered on U.S. complaints about its trade deficit with China, and lack of equal access to the local market.
Foreign companies often allege they are forced to transfer key technology in order to operate in China. Access is also uneven.
One example is Mastercard and Visa, which struggled for years to enter the Chinese market, while state-controlled UnionPay has expanded globally. Others, such as Google search, are blocked altogether in China.
In the last two years, the Chinese government has taken steps to increase foreign access to industries such as securities brokerages, and passed a new foreign investment law to improve intellectual property protection and limit forced technology transfers.
However, a survey from the American Chamber of Commerce in Shanghai released this month showed that greater access to the domestic market was top on respondents' wish list for any trade agreement.
The next round of high-level trade talks is expected to take place in early October in Washington, D.C.
Wang said he hoped the negotiations would "produce a positive outcome" and emphasized the business opportunity for America in working with China.
"The trade frictions between China and the U.S. in the last year have inflicted losses on both countries, losses that should not have happened," Wang said, noting both sides should "explore new areas of cooperation."
In addition to applying tariffs on billions of dollars' worth of goods from China, the U.S. this year placed Chinese telecommunications giant Huawei on a blacklist that effectively prevents the company from buying from American suppliers. Beijing has threatened to release an "unreliable entities list" and imposed tariffs of its own on U.S. products.
Also on Tuesday, Wang pushed back against international criticism of human rights violations in Xinjiang and said the regional government's actions were an effort to prevent terrorism.
He added that China's massive infrastructure project, the Belt and Road Initiative, is "not targeted at the U.S. ... but there should be no attempts to discredit or undermine it."
On issues of national sovereignty, the foreign minister emphasized that China will not allow Taiwan independence, and that "to maintain Hong Kong's prosperity and stability is to reject violence."
The foreign minister was in New York for the UN General Assembly and his remarks Tuesday were his only public address on the U.S.-China relationship during the visit, according to the National Committee on U.S.-China Relations.
"China has no intention to play the game of thrones on the world stage," Wang said. "For now and for the foreseeable future, the United States is and will still be the strongest country in the world."