Asian countries should work together to promote peace, eliminate poverty and enhance cooperation through trade and investment in the region, Chinese President Xi Jinping said on Wednesday.

“Asian people hope to have an open and inclusive Asia … we hope every country can uphold the spirit of openness, push forward communication about policies, the linkage of infrastructures, the smooth flow of trade and investment and the connection of people,” Xi said in an opening speech at the first Conference on Dialogue of Asian Civilizations in Beijing.

“Humans are different in skin colors and languages while civilizations have a variety of beauties. However, they should not be classified as high and low, or good and bad. Whoever thinks his race and civilization is better than others or tries to change and replace another civilization is unwise and [this] will lead to disaster,” he added.

His speech was seen as a response to Kiron Skinner, the director of policy planning at the US State Department, who said at a security forum in Washington on April 29 that the US is preparing for a clash of civilizations with China. Skinner also said China poses a unique challenge because of its philosophy and history, adding that it’s “not Caucasian.”

On Sunday, China’s official Xinhua news agency published a commentary criticizing Skinner’s view. It said her argument was dangerous and should not be part of US diplomatic policy. Xinhua went on to say that Skinner’s comments simply create conflicts, violates the value of diversification in the US and hurts international cooperation.

Li Hailing, a professor in international relations and director of the Center for American Studies at the China Foreign Affairs University, told Global Times that when American political scientist Samuel Huntington published his book The Clash of Civilizations and the Remaking of World Order in 1993, his views were considered fresh and inspiring.

But Li said holding such views will ultimately create conflicts and diplomatic disputes among civilizations.

The ideological argument between China and the US has coincided with an intensifying trade war over the weekend. Last Friday, US President Donald Trump increased tariffs on US$200 billion worth of Chinese products to 25% from 10%. On Monday, China’s Finance Ministry said the world’s second-largest economy would raise tariffs on US imports worth $60 billion next month.

On Wednesday, Xi did not directly comment on the China-US trade war in his speech to 2,000 guests from 47 countries at the Conference on Dialogue of Asian Civilizations, which was billed by the state-run media as an “important diplomatic activity.”

Instead, Xi called for mutual respect among different countries in Asia.

“On the foundation of the brilliant achievements obtained by our ancestors, we will … strive to continue writing the new glory of Asian civilizations,” he said.

Xi then went on to say that Asian countries should jointly promote peace in the region, otherwise, economic growth, improvement in people’s livelihood and social stability would become empty goals. He also encouraged a joint effort to push forward economic globalization and eliminate poverty.

He emphasized that China was willing to promote tourism with Asian countries and contribute more to economic growth in the region. Last year, around 160 million Chinese tourists visited other nations in the region, while incoming tourists to China reached 140 million.

A total of 2,000 guests from 47 countries attended the Conference on Dialogue of Asian Civilizations. Photo: CCTV