China-US Tension

President Xi warns about the dangers of a ‘New Cold War’

He takes aim at the US in a speech at China’s ‘Davos’ and calls for a change in global rules

President Xi Jinping has again warned about the threat of a “New Cold War” amid rising tension between China and the United States.

In a keynote speech at the Boao Forum or Asia’s answer to Davos, he criticized those trying to “build barriers” and “decouple” from the world’s second-largest economy.

“It is necessary to abandon the Cold War mentality and zero-sum game, and oppose any form of New Cold War and ideological confrontation,” Xi told a select audience on the tropical island of Hainan in a video broadcast without referring to the US.

Still, his comments on Tuesday echoed an earlier address at the virtual World  Economic Forum in January.

Back then, he highlighted the dangers of “small cliques” starting a “New Cold War,” which would “threaten or intimidate others” and “push the world into division.”

The facts:

  • Xi called for the rejection of “hegemonic” power structures and demanded major reforms of the global governance system.
  • What he did not talk about was Beijing’s predatory trading practices and the blurred lines between state-owned enterprises and the private sector.
  • There was also no mention of forced technology transfer and cyber theft or access by foreign companies to key online sectors.
  • But Xi did warn against interfering in China’s domestic affairs, despite the ruling Communist Party’s repressive clampdown in Xijiang and in Hong Kong.
  • There was also not a single reference to China’s illegal claims to more than 90% of the South China Sea and the bullying of democratic Taiwan.

Xi rules, OK: “The destiny and future of the world should be decided by all nations, and rules set up just by one or several countries should not be imposed on others. The whole world should not be led by unilateralism of individual countries,” he said, conveniently forgetting to mention Beijing’s panache for breaking “rules” it does not agree with at the World Trade Organisation.

Reaction to the speech: “Boao is an opportunity to highlight China’s role in Asia and China’s voice in a multilateral setting. The Asia Pacific region will continue to be an important theater of competition between China and the US, and the starting point of China’s global governance strategy,” Zhu Jiejin, a professor of international relations at Fudan University in Shanghai, said as reported by the South China Morning Post.

All-star cast: According to media reports, Apple’s Tim Cook, Tesla’s Elon Musk and Blackstone’s Stephen Schwarzman were sitting in the audience. To paraphrase F Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby, Xi’s voice was “full of money.”

Delve deeper: The speech by the general secretary of the Communist Party of China came just days after the US and key ally Japan agreed to invest in crucial high-tech sectors. They will include 5G, artificial intelligence, quantum computing, genomics, and the semiconductor supply chain that runs through Xi’s domain.

China Factor comment: Xi’s speech will play well at home to the Party faithful and big business looking to make a quick buck. But it will fail to ease concerns in the corridors of power in Washington, Brussels, and Tokyo, not to mention London, Seoul, and Ottawa.

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