Xi Jinping has called for a new world order, launching a veiled attack against US global leadership and warning against an economic decoupling of the two superpowers.
“International affairs should be handled by everyone,” the Chinese president told the Boao Forum for Asia, an event billed as the country’s answer to the World Economic Forum in Davos. Last year’s summit was cancelled because of the coronavirus emergency.
Xi did not name the US in his 18-minute speech but he took aim at Washington’s efforts to decouple supply chains and bar critical American semiconductors and other high-tech goods from being sold to Chinese companies such as Huawei.
“The rules set by one or several countries should not be imposed on others, and the unilateralism of individual countries should not give the whole world a rhythm,” he said.
Xi’s comments came just days after Joe Biden, US president, and Yoshihide Suga, Japan’s prime minister, committed to work together to oppose Chinese coercion in the South and East China Seas.
Tensions are rising in the region, with China facing international criticism for its crackdown on Hong Kong and human rights abuses against Uyghur Muslims in Xinjiang.
Beijing has also beefed up its military activity in the region. In January, Chinese aircraft simulated missile attacks on a US aircraft carrier during an incursion into Taiwan’s air defence zone three days after Biden’s inauguration.
In his speech, Xi said: “Bossing others around and interfering in other countries’ internal affairs will not be well received.”
But despite the geopolitical tensions, US businesses are eager to expand their operations in China, which reported 18.3 per cent year-on-year economic growth in the first quarter of 2021 as the country rebounded from lockdown. US banks, in particular, have been keen as Beijing gradually opens up its financial markets.
Western executives scheduled to participate in the Boao Forum included Tim Cook, Apple chief executive; John Waldron, Goldman Sachs president; Elon Musk, Tesla chief; and Stephen Schwarzman of Blackstone.
Shi Yinhong, director of the Centre on American Studies at Renmin university in Beijing, said there was no doubt that the US was the target of Xi’s remarks. “In the eyes of China, the US is still hegemonic,” he said.
Xi also called for closer global co-operation on developing, manufacturing and distributing Covid-19 vaccines to improve access in developing countries.
“We want to make [the vaccine] truly accessible and affordable to people of all countries,” Xi said.
Chinese vaccines developed by Sinopharm, Sinovac and CanSino have already been produced in countries that have signed up to its Belt and Road Initiative, including Brazil, the United Arab Emirates and Malaysia.
Xi insisted that vaccines were global public goods and promised to provide more help for developing countries to overcome the pandemic and seek broader global co-operation in public health and traditional medicine.
Additional reporting by Nian Liu in Beijing