Chinese Premier Li Qiang expressed Thursday opposition to bloc confrontation and a new "Cold War" in a veiled warning to the United States, which has been engaged in an intensifying competition with China.

In a keynote speech at the Boao Forum for Asia, Li maintained China will "always be a builder of world peace, a contributor to global development and a defender of international order" amid growing fears over its arms buildup and increased military pressure on Taiwan, which Beijing regards as its own.

Chinese Premier Li Qiang gives a speech at the opening ceremony of the latest Boao Forum for Asia in Hainan Province, China, on March 30, 2023. (Kyodo

His remarks at the event on southern China's Hainan Island, billed as Asia's alternative to the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, came as the United States hosted a virtual summit on democracy amid a deepening rivalry between Washington and what it describes as autocracies such as China and Russia.

The premier also said China is against "trade protectionism and decoupling," calling for efforts to ensure the stability of the global industrial supply chain, as Washington attempts to tighten restrictions on the Asian nation's access to cutting-edge technologies such as semiconductors.

Amid uncertainties over the global economy due to Russia's invasion of Ukraine and elevated financial risks following recent U.S. bank failures, Li sounded confident about the outlook for the world's second-largest economy, citing strong momentum for its growth.

"Judging from the situation in March, it is better than in January and February. In particular, major economic indicators such as consumption and investment continue to improve, while employment and prices are generally stable," Li said.

China's economy, which was battered last year due to the economic fallout from its stringent "zero-COVID" policy, involving quarantines and lockdowns, has been gradually recovering.

The premier, who assumed the post earlier this month, pledged that Beijing will "always adhere to reform and opening up" so it could "inject new impetus and vitality" into the world economy and allow other countries to share the opportunities of China's development.

Some 2,000 participants from about 50 countries and regions have attended the four-day annual conference through Friday, the first entirely in-person meeting since the COVID-19 outbreak.

The prime ministers of Singapore, Malaysia and Spain as well as International Monetary Fund Managing Director Kristalina Georgieva are among the participants at the forum, which was first held in 2002.