China’s president Xi Jinping has warned the US and its allies to abandon a ‘cold war’ mentality and to put aside differences in a bid for global prosperity.
Speaking at the World Economic Forum Virtual Event of the Davos Agenda on Monday, Xi warned of creating divisions, insisting multilateralism was the way forward.
“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,” he said.
His comments follow Australia’s growing involvement in the ‘Quad’ – an alliance of four countries including the US, Japan and India. China’s economic rise has led to a stronger collaboration between the four in the past year with all four concerned over Beijing’s policies on the global stage.
Yet Xi, painting China as the victim, declared the “strong should not bully the weak”.
China’s relations with US at all-time low
China’s relations with the US plummeted during Donald Trump’s time as president, with a raft of punitive tariffs imposed while Chinese companies have faced a range of sanctions, including the attempted forced sale of TikTok’s US operations.
However, Xi’s comments come as somewhat of a contradictory surprise for many, particularly Australians who have seen their nation slapped with a wave of trade sanctions throughout 2020.
Despite former Trade Minister Simon Birmingham failing to get through to any of his Beijing counterparts over the sanctions, Xi called for international affairs to be “addressed through consultation”.
“China is working hard to bridge differences through dialogue and resolve disputes through negotiation, and to pursue friendly and co-operative relations with other countries on the basis of mutual respect, equality and mutual benefit,” he said.
Beijing itself has criticised Australia’s persistence on blocking foreign investment on the grounds of national security, including a 5G rollout by Chinese tech giant Huawei.
The Morrison government called for an interjection from the World Trade Organisation (WTO) over tariffs slapped on Australian barley, however Xi is now calling for reforms to the WTO to “protect the development rights, interests and opportunities of developing countries”.
China calls on nations to uphold international rule of law
In another surprise move, Xi urged the world to commit to international law and international rules instead of seeking one’s own supremacy.
"We need to be resolute in championing the international rule of law, and steadfast in our resolve to safeguard the international system centred around the UN and the international order based on international law,” he said.
“Multilateral institutions, which provide the platforms for putting multilateralism into action and which are the basic architecture underpinning multilateralism, should have their authority and effectiveness safeguarded.”
Yet a growing number of Western countries have accused Beijing of abandoning international rules and standards in recent years.
China has faced widespread condemnation for its democracy-suppressing moves in Hong Kong and Taiwan, while allegations of human rights abuses in Xinjiang show no signs of going away.
Bilhari Kausikan, a former Singaporean Foreign Affairs Ministry secretary, told The Australian Xi’s comments were “overflowing with irony”.
Foreign Ministry spokesperson Zhao Lijian’s view on Xi’s speech differed on Tuesday, telling reporters it revealed China’s “wisdom and sense of responsibility”.
“It will give a strong boost to the rebuilding of mutual trust, consolidate consensus and pool strength from around the globe toward the goal of a community with a shared future for mankind.”
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