BEIJING -- Chinese President Xi Jinping said Wednesday that it was "disastrous" for countries to force change upon other countries just days after trade negotiations with the U.S. appeared to hit a new low.
"It is foolish to believe that one's race and civilization are superior to others, and it is disastrous to willfully reshape or even replace other civilizations," Xi said during the keynote speech at the first Conference on Dialogue of Asian Civilizations, in Beijing.
The trade war between the U.S. and China has escalated after talks broke down last week, with the U.S. saying China reneged on promises to make economic reforms. One of Washington's top demands is for Beijing to end subsidies and tax breaks for state-owned companies.
Xi spoke two days after Beijing levied tariffs on $60 billion of American goods in retaliation for Washington's decision to raise existing tariffs on $200 billion of Chinese exports as well as preparing to target a further $300 billion of Chinese goods with tariffs.
The tit-for-tat tariff measures caused world markets to fall sharply on Monday.
On Wednesday, the Chinese leader cited the "instability and uncertainty" mounting on the international stage, and called on allies to "jointly build an Asian community."
Coming weeks after the Belt and Road summit, the Dialogue of Asian Civilizations is an extension of the cross-border infrastructure initiative, and aims to increase the number of allies by projecting soft power through Chinese food and traditional arts. Accompanying events, which last until August, include joint exhibitions of Asian cultures and gourmet food festivals held in multiple Chinese cities.
The dialogue, which Xi personally advocated for, is seen by the one-party state as a crucial diplomatic opportunity to spread Beijing's worldview and to firm up Belt and Road partnerships. More than 2,000 dignitaries from 47 countries attended the conference. Leaders from Singapore, Sri Lanka, Armenia and Greece were also in attendance.
During his speech, Xi signaled his renewed willingness to improve relations with Japan by calling the country's classic "Tale of Genji" as a "treasure of humanity," alongside "The Arabian Nights" and China's "Analects of Confucius."