China talks tough amid plans for Biden-XI summit

General Zhang Youxia warns the US of creating ‘turbulence’ and ‘meddling in internal and regional affairs’

Chinese General Zhang Youxia issued a veiled threat to the United States and its allies in a keynote address in Beijing on Monday.

Speaking at the Xiangshan Forum for mainly Global South defense chiefs, he warned major democracies to stop meddling in China’s “internal affairs.”

“Certain countries keep stirring up trouble around the world,” Zhang, the vice-chairman of the powerful Central Military Commission, under the leadership of President Xi Jinping, said without naming Washington.

“They deliberately create turbulence, meddle in regional affairs, interfere in other countries’ internal affairs and instigate color revolutions,” he added, accusing the US of trying to undermine China’s ruling Communist Party.

Key points: 

  • Zhang pointed out that China will “deepen strategic cooperation and coordination” with close ally “Russia.”   
  • He also stressed the need for improved military ties with Washington based on a “peaceful coexistence.”
  • But his speech is unlikely to ease growing tension in the South China Sea and the flashpoint island of democratic Taiwan.

Zhang’s comments came just hours after top diplomat Wang Yi left Washington.

Delve deeper: Zhang was brought in to deliver the opening address after Defense Minister Li Shangfu was fired last week after “disappearing” from public view for two months.

Between the lines: In September, the Reuters news agency reported that Li was being investigated for “corruption.”

Big picture: Still, Zhang’s comments came just hours after China’s top diplomat Wang Yi left Washington. His trip was seen as paving the way for a tête-à-tête between US President Joe Biden and Xi at the APEC Summit in San Francisco next month.

Bottom line: But the road across the Golden Gate Bridge is littered with diplomatic potholes. State-run Global Times hinted that a meeting between the two leaders was nothing more than a publicity stunt orchestrated by Washington.

What they said: “The US moves mainly serve for convening a grand APEC meeting, yet falls short of responding to China’s core concerns. High-level communication won’t come ‘automatically’ unless the US makes [a] more [determined] effort.”

China Factor comment: These are dangerous days for Xi, who faces massive economic challenges at home and an image problem abroad. His adversarial approach might not sit well in the Cool Gray City of Love.