Obama China

The United States will remain the world’s leading power for a long time, Foreign Minister Wang Yi said on Friday, but he stressed global affairs should not be dominated by one country.

Wang made the remarks during an interview with the Qatar-based broadcaster Al Jazeera, ahead of the seventh ministerial conference of the China-Arab States Cooperation Forum in Doha last week, and the transcript of the interview was released on Thursday night.

When asked whether China, the world’s second largest economy, had prepared to replace a declining US as global leader, Wang replied “from what we know about the country, the US will probably remain the world’s No 1 for a fairly long time.”

But, he added: “This does not mean that the world can only be led by one country, which, in fact, is simply impossible.”

Wang criticized Washington’s role in the South China Sea, blaming it for raising tensions in the disputed waters. Relations in the region, especially between the US and China, have become strained, with Washington accusing Beijing of militarizing the sea by creating artificial islands, some of them fortified.

Beijing, in turn, has criticized increased US naval patrols and exercises in its “pivot” to Asia.

Wang said every country had the right to defend itself and it was “perfectly normal” for China to set up self-defence facilities in the South China Sea while other nations did likewise.

“Who is engaging in massive military exercises in the region?” Wang said. “Who is sending a lot of advanced weaponry to the South China Sea and building new military bases? The answer is all too clear: the United States.”

US South China SeaUS NavyThe aircraft carrier USS Nimitz (CVN 68), the guided-missile cruiser USS Chosin (CG 65), the guided-missile destroyers USS Sampson (DDG 102) and USS Pinkney (DDG 91), and the guided-missile frigate USS Rentz (FFG 46) operate in formation in the South China Sea.

The remarks come ahead of an expected ruling by the Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague in the coming weeks in a case launched by the Philippines contesting the legality of China’s “nine-dash line” demarcating most of the South China Sea as its territory. Beijing rejects the court’s authority and blames Manila for not settling the disputes through bilateral negotiations.

“It is the Philippines who still refuse to negotiate or consult with us,” Wang said, adding that it was Manila’s actions that “lacked legality and legitimacy from the very beginning.”

Wang denied China would “fill the vacuum” in the Middle East after the US withdrew its forces from the region. The people of those nations should work together for a better future, he said, but other countries would help.

He also stressed the importance of ties with Arab countries in Beijing’s “One Belt, One Road” trade initiative linking China and east Asia with Europe.