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China's Xi Jinping tells delegates: 'No civilization superior over others'

Xi's remarks come weeks after a Trump administration official called China the first competitor that is 'not Caucasian.'

By Elizabeth Shim
China's Xi Jinping tells delegates: 'No civilization superior over others'
Chinese President Xi Jinping delivers his speech during the opening ceremony of the Conference on Dialogue of Asian Civilizations in Beijing, China, on Wednesday. EPA-EFE/HOW HWEE YOUNG

May 15 (UPI) -- Chinese President Xi Jinping placed emphasis on international cooperation at the opening of the first Conference on Asian Civilizations Dialogue on Wednesday, amid an escalating tariff war with the United States.

Xi, who approved raising tariffs on about $60 billion of U.S. exports on Monday, turned to delegates from 47 countries and called for mutual respect to prevail in international relations.

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"No civilization is superior over others. The thought that one's own race and civilization are superior and the inclination to remold or replace other civilizations are just stupid," the Chinese leader said, according to CNN.

Xi's reference to race may have been a retort to a statement from a senior U.S. State Department official.

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In late April, Kiron Skinner had said China was the United States' first "great power competitor that is not Caucasian."

"When we think about the Soviet Union and that competition, in a way it was a fight within the Western family...That's not really possible with China. This is a fight with a really different civilization and a different ideology," Skinner had said.

In his speech on Wednesday, Xi challenged pessimistic views, while acknowledging the world struggles with "polarization" and "uncertainty and instability."

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In the face of mounting problems, nations must "cooperate in unison," Xi told delegates, while encouraging Asian nations to continue exchange and avoid isolationism.

China has repeatedly criticized U.S. policy, and offered strong remarks in response to reports President Donald Trump could soon issue an executive order to ban U.S. firms from using any equipment manufactured by China's Huawei.

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Geng Shuang said Wednesday at a regular press briefing China is taking "self-defense measures" while the United States claims the measures are an act of trade war, Xinhua reported.

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The Trump administration is "repressing" Chinese firms, Geng said.

The two countries have postponed trade talks.

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