Highlights: An interview with China's vice foreign minister

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Chinese Vice Minister of Foreign Affairs Le Yucheng listens to a question during an interview with the Associated Press at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Beijing, Friday, April 16, 2021. Le spoke to AP on a wide range of issues during an interview on Friday including climate change and US-China relations. (AP Photo/Mark Schiefelbein)

BEIJING – China's Vice Foreign Minister Le Yucheng spoke with The Associated Press on a range of issues from U.S.-China relations to human rights. Below are highlights from Friday's interview:

US-CHINA RELATIONS

Le took on President Joe Biden's strategy of working with others in Europe and Asia to confront China, a concern for Chinese policy makers. “The Biden administration is saying that the U.S. has returned to multilateralism," he said. “True multilateralism means inclusiveness and cooperation rather than teaming up against others. ... This world has over 190 countries. A group of four or seven or a dozen countries, that is not multilateralism." He called for "an atmosphere of global cooperation instead of small circles against one another.”

The veteran Chinese diplomat acknowledged competition might be inevitable between the U.S. and China, but criticized the U.S. emphasis on confrontation over cooperation: “We feel that this is too negative and lacks a forward-looking spirit.” He said it is regrettable that competing to be tougher on China seems to be the politically correct thing to do in America. “Some people in the U.S. refuse to accept that 1.4 billion Chinese people are entitled to a better life and don’t recognize China has the right to choose its own path of development."

CLIMATE

There are calls for China to accelerate its carbon reduction targets, ahead of an April 22-23 climate summit called by Biden. “I’m afraid this is not very realistic,” Le said. “When it comes to climate change response, China is at a different stage than the U.S., Western nations and other developed countries. China is still a primary school student while the developed countries are middle school students. Now if you ask primary school and middle school students to graduate at the same time, it is against the natural course of growth, so it’s unrealistic.”

Le welcomed America's return to the Paris accord under Biden and called on the U.S. “to redouble its efforts to make up for the losses caused by its withdrawal" under former President Donald Trump. Specifically, he said that rather than blaming China, the U.S. should provide more technical and financial support to help poorer countries address climate change.

SOUTH CHINA SEA