The top United States (US) diplomat for East Asia, David Stilwell, said on Thursday China’s recent actions around the world were not those of a responsible global actor, but of a “lawless bully.”

In prepared testimony for a Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing, Stilwell said the United States was not asking other countries to choose sides, but to stand up against China’s “malign” behavior and to protect their own sovereignty and economic interests.

At the same time, Stilwell said US competition with China need not lead to conflict, and that the United States sought to cooperate with Beijing where interests aligned, for instance on North Korea.

Stilwell said in the past several months there had been “particularly egregious examples of Beijing’s conduct.”

These included violence on its border with India and “aggressive” moves in the South China Sea, around Taiwan, and in waters China disputes with Japan.

He also referred to alleged Chinese attempts to “wipe out” Mongolian and Tibetan culture, “a continued campaign of repression and forced labor” in the Xinjiang region and Beijing’s imposition of a “draconian” National Security Law in Hong Kong.

“These are not the actions of a responsible global actor, but a lawless bully,” he said.

Stilwell’s comments came as the US administration has stepped up criticism, sanctions and other actions against China as Republican President Donald Trump campaigns for reelection in November.

China has become the main foreign policy issue in the campaign. On Thursday, Senate Democrats announced their own programme to counter China’s global influence, unveiling sweeping legislation seeking to boost US competitiveness and recast diplomacy with Beijing.

The top US diplomat for European affairs, Philip Reeker, told the same Senate hearing that Europe was “arguably” the central front in China’s effort to supplant US global leadership, but Russia remained the primary military threat there.