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Xi calls for openness, says no civilisation superior

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He avoids talk of US trade war, stresses wish to embrace the world

BEIJING China will only be more open to the world, President Xi Jinping said yesterday, as he denounced as "stupid" those who believe in cultural superiority, in his first public address since trade tensions with the US spiked last week.

The two are locked in an escalating trade war. China on Monday announced higher tariffs on US$60 billion (S$82 billion) worth of US goods, effective June 1, in retaliation for a US decision last Friday to raise levies on US$200 billion worth of Chinese imports.

Just before Mr Xi spoke at the Conference on Dialogue of Asian Civilisations in Beijing, the government reported surprisingly weaker growth in retail sales and industrial output for last month.

He made no direct reference to the trade tension nor to the US, focusing instead on presenting China as a non-threatening country open to all.

Chinese civilisation was an "open system" that had continuously had exchanges and learned from other cultures, including Buddhism, Marxism and Islam, Mr Xi told the forum.


"Today's China is not only China's China. It is Asia's China and the world's China. China in the future will take on an even more open stance to embrace the world," he added.

No country can stand alone, Mr Xi said, perhaps taking a swipe at US President Donald Trump's America First policy.

"Civilisations will lose vitality if countries go back to isolation and cut themselves off from the rest of the world," he said.

"The people of Asian countries hope to distance themselves from being closed and hope all countries will adhere to the spirit of openness and promote policy communication, connectivity and smooth trade."

China has been particularly upset by comments reported in the US media last month by a State Department official who said the US was involved in "a fight with a really different civilisation" when it came to China.

Mr Xi told the forum civilisations were not destined to clash.

"It is stupid to believe that one's race and civilisation are superior to others, and it is disastrous to wilfully reshape or even replace other civilisations."

Mr Xi offered no new concrete measures to open China up, aside from proposing an Asia tourism promotion plan, and even on that he gave no details.

Officials have billed the forum as part of a soft power push to put a gentler face on China's might, though it attracted only a handful of foreign leaders to the opening session, including the presidents of Greece, Sri Lanka and Singapore.

China has faced opposition to some of its global ambitions, mainly in the West but especially in the United States, where there has been suspicion of Chinese technology, Mr Xi's Belt and Road Initiative to re-create the Old Silk Road, and government-run Confucius Institutes to teach the Chinese language.