Hillary Clinton, the Democratic Party candidate in last year’s US presidential election, told a conference in Beijing on Tuesday that the unprecedented consolidation of power under President Xi Jinping triggers “anxiety about a more assertive Beijing and worries your neighbours as well as the US”.
“The paths to legitimacy of leadership run through responsible cooperation, not through military build-up, contest in islands or bullying small neighbours”, Clinton said via a video link.
Clinton was speaking as a keynote speaker at the annual conference of the Chinese news magazine Caijing. Her speech was broadcast to hundreds of Chinese business executives and government researchers.
Clinton, 70, took a tough stance in dealing with Beijing over issues such as sovereignty disputes in the South China Sea and human rights when she served as US secretary of state from 2009 to 2013.
Clinton reiterated her concerns over human rights abuses in China during her speech.
She raised the issue of her decision in 2012 to help Chen Guangcheng, a blind human rights lawyer, who sought refuge at the US embassy in Beijing.
Chen’s escape from house arrest with the help of a number of human rights advocates, coincided with a visit by Clinton to Beijing and triggered a diplomatic crisis between the two countries.
Chen was later allowed into the US.
Clinton also touched on a number of issues in Sino-US relations in her speech, including North Korea and fair treatment of US businesses in China.
“I said clearly that I want a peaceful rise of China,” she said.
It is a common practice for Chinese institutions to invite retired foreign leaders to speak at conferences.
Caijing, for instance, invited two former US presidents, Bill Clinton and Jimmy Carter, to speak at its annual meetings in 2013 and 2011.
Clinton said China and the US must work together to bring North Korea back to the negotiating table over its nuclear weapons programme.
She said the US also wants to see “an end to discrimination against US companies and better protection for their intellectual properties, end preference for Chinese domestic firms and more opportunities for US goods, products and services to enter Chinese markets”.
She added that the US still sought “an end to any unfair distortion of currency practices”.
The yuan exchange rate has been a thorny trade issue between Beijing and Washington, although US President Donald Trump has largely fallen silent on the issue in recent months.
Clinton also criticised Trump in her speech.
“The Trump administration came in and retreated from diplomacy. It appears they have withdrawn their global responsibility and leadership which has raised question about stability in Asia-Pacific as well as the state power of the US,” Clinton said.
Clinton was asked if she would run again for the presidency. She said she would not.