China’s president, Xi Jinping, has sent out a warning to Joe Biden that he risks a new cold war if he continues with the protectionist policies of his predecessor, Donald Trump.
In an address to the virtual World Economic Forum event, Xi called for a multilateral approach to solving the economic crisis caused by Covid-19 and said the pandemic should not be used as an excuse to reverse globalisation in favour of “decoupling and seclusion”.
Xi avoided mentioning either Biden or the US by name in his first speech since Trump left the White House last week but made it clear that China would not be dictated to by Washington.
“To build small circles or start a new cold war, to reject, threaten or intimidate others, to wilfully impose decoupling, supply disruption or sanctions, and to create isolation or estrangement will only push the world into division and even confrontation” Xi said.
Repeating the defence of multilateralism made when he attended the WEF in Davos four years ago, Xi said the alternative was the law of the jungle. “No global problem can be solved by any one country alone. There must be global action, global response and global cooperation.”
Biden has given no indication that he intends to soften Trump’s tough attitude towards Beijing and is set to announce a “buy American” procurement policy to boost US manufacturing.
Xi said: “We should build an open world economy, uphold the multilateral trading regime, discard discriminatory and exclusionary standards, rules and systems, and take down barriers to trade, investment and technological exchanges.
“State-to-state relations should be coordinated and regulated through proper institutions and rules. The strong should not bully the weak. Decisions should not be made by simply showing off strong muscles or waving a big fist.”
Xi also made it clear that China would not be swayed by criticism of its human rights record, which has focused recently on the crackdown on dissent in Hong Kong and the treatment of the Uighur population, described as “genocide” by Trump’s secretary of state, Mike Pompeo.
“No two leaves in the world are identical, and no histories, cultures or social systems are the same. Each country is unique with its own history, culture and social system, and none is superior to the other”, Xi said.
“Difference in itself is no cause for alarm. What does ring the alarm is arrogance, prejudice and hatred; it is the attempt to impose hierarchy on human civilisation or to force one’s own history, culture and social system upon others.”