Chinese leader Xi Jinping has stressed the need to reject confrontation in Asia, warning against the risk of Cold War tensions, as leaders gather for the last of three world summits in the region this year month.
Xi has already used the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) to determine how he wants China to be seen by his counterparts, framing the country as an agent of regional unity in a written speech released ahead of Friday’s opening day.
Without specifically naming the United States, the speech also appeared to take several jabs at the US.
The Asia-Pacific region is “no one’s backyard” and should not become “a stage for great power competitions,” Xi said in the statement, in which he also warned of attempts to “disrupt” or “dismantle” industrial supply chains.
“Unilateralism and protectionism should be rejected by all; Any attempt to politicize and weaponize economic and trade relations should also be rejected by all,” said Xi, who was originally scheduled to deliver remarks to business leaders but canceled due to unforeseen scheduling conflicts. Reuters reported, citing the organizers.
“The people and our times will never allow any attempt to wage a new cold war,” he added. Xi struck a softer tone in a separate address to APEC leaders on Friday morning as the event kicked off, calling for stability, peace and the development of a “fairer world order”.
Relations between the world’s two largest economies have deteriorated sharply in recent years, with the two sides clashing over Taiwan, the war in Ukraine, North Korea and technology transfer among other issues.
But tensions between the United States and China, which eased slightly after a historic meeting between Xi and US President Joe Biden in Bali, Indonesia earlier this week, will not be the only shadow that will hang over the APEC summit.
Leaders and representatives of 21 economies on both sides of the Pacific, which account for about half of world trade, are expected to grapple with how to deal with the economic fallout from the war in Ukraine during their summit in two days, an annual meeting. aimed at advancing regional economic integration.
The question is whether leaders can find a consensus on how to deal with Russia’s aggression in a final document, or whether differences of opinion among the broad group of nations will hinder that outcome, despite months of discussion among lower-level officials of the APEC nations.
In an address to business leaders on the sidelines of the summit on Friday morning, French President Emmanuel Macron, who was invited by host country Thailand but is not part of the grouping, called for consensus and unity against Russia’s aggression .
“Help us convey the same message to Russia: stop the war, the respective international order and get back to the table,” he said.
Macron also denounced the rivalry between the US and China, warning of risks to peace if countries are forced to choose between the two great powers.
“We need a single global order,” Macron said to applause from business leaders.
Before the events began on Friday, Chinese leader Xi met with Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida on Thursday, in the first meeting between leaders of the two countries in nearly three years. The two sides called for more cooperation after a breakdown in communication over points of contention from Taiwan to the disputed islands.
Xi also met with Singaporean Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong and Philippine President Ferdinand Marcos in an attempt to underscore the importance of regional relations for China. They added to a host of bilateral meetings during what is only Xi’s second trip abroad since the start of the pandemic and his first since taking a rule-breaking third term as leader of the china
Unlike at the G20 earlier this week, Xi does not enter APEC having to sit across from Biden, who left Asia for a family event on Wednesday and handed over the US delegation in Bangkok to the vice president Kamala Harris.
Russian President Vladimir Putin will also not attend, but will send a representative, having skipped the G20 and meetings surrounding the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) summit in Phnom Penh, Cambodia for the past week.
Asked about the potential for consensus at the next leaders’ summit after a meeting of APEC foreign ministers on Thursday, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken was upbeat .
“Far from splitting along one line or another, I think we see a growing convergence among all countries on the critical issues that really matter in the lives of our citizens… I think you’ll see coming out of Bangkok in the next 24 hours more or less, important steps we’re taking together,” he said.