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Malcolm Riddell

Founder of CHINADebate

Xi Jinping: 'Why We All Just Get Along?'
Xi Jinping: 'Why We All Just Get Along?'
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January 27, 2021

In today’s issue:

1. Biden Shows his Hand on China

  • 'Biden’s Opening Salvo on Beijing'

2. Xi Shows his Hand on the U.S.

  • 'China’s Xi Champions Multilateralism at Davos, Again'
  • 'Xi Jinping Wows Them at Davos'

3. Multi-Lateralism, Chinese-Style

  • 'China’s Xi Warns Against Confrontation in Veiled Message to Biden'
  • 'Xi Jinping at the Virtual Davos: Multilateralism with Chinese characteristics'

4. Cooperation or 'Strategic Competition'?

  • 'China rejects 'strategic competition' and calls on US to cooperate'

We are just a week into the Biden Era, and China and the U.S. are presenting its opening moves.

On the China side, of particular interest are two policies being pushed:

  • ‘Multilateralism,' that in China’s meaning may be ‘Multilateralism with Chinese Characteristics.’ Hence a different meaning for China than what the rest of the world understands, and
  • ‘Cooperation’ as the guiding principle in U.S.-China relations.

In sum, the lines being drawn are:

  • Chinese ‘Multilateralism’ versus U.S.'s ‘Coalition of Allies,’ and
  • China’s ‘Cooperation’ versus the U.S.’s ‘Strategic Competition.’

In his virtual Davos speech this week, Xi Jinping highlighted both.

  • So far, the Biden administration isn’t budging. And don’t expect it to.

On the U.S. side, tell me again about how Biden is going to be soft on China. As Walter Russell Mead writes:

  • ‘The Biden administration is less than a week old, but its most consequential foreign-policy decisions may already be behind it.’
  • ‘Initiating his China policy with the most aggressive concatenation of moves against a foreign power that any peacetime U.S. administration has ever launched so early on, President Biden has thrown down a gauntlet that Beijing is unlikely to ignore.’

‘Besides issuing a formal invitation to Taiwan’s top Washington representative to attend the inauguration (the first such invitation since the U.S. established formal relations with Beijing in 1979), the incoming team has pledged to continue arms sales to Taiwan and indicated that it wants to delay high-level U.S.-China talks until it consults with close allies—a stand that China will interpret as a rebuff.’

  • ‘As if this weren’t enough, Secretary of State-designate Antony Blinken announced that he concurs with his predecessor Mike Pompeo’s finding that China is engaged in a genocide against its mostly Muslim Uighur minority in Xinjiang province.’
  • ‘Taken with the previously planned dispatch of a naval strike group to the South China Sea, it all amounts to a stern message to Beijing.'

'The early signs from China aren’t encouraging,’ Mr. Mead continues:‘On Inauguration Day,'

  • Chinese forces attacked Indian positions in Sikkim, across the border from Tibet.’
  • ‘Following 13 Chinese sorties into Taiwan’s southwestern air-defense identification zone on Saturday, State Department spokesman Ned Price warned China to cease “its military, diplomatic and economic pressure against Taiwan.” ’
  • ‘China responded by sending another 15 sorties the next day.’

If this was a bit of the stick, Xi Jinping offered some carrots in his virtual Davos address on Monday: ‘Chinese President Xi Jinping called on countries to uphold international rules and to remain “committed to openness and inclusiveness.” ’

  • ‘ “The problems facing the world are intricate and complex. The way out of them is through upholding multilateralism and building a community with a shared future for mankind,” Xi said,’ reports the Nikkei Asian Review.
  • ‘He emphasized the importance of abiding by international law and international rules, stating that “international governance should be based on the rules and consensus reached among us, not on the order given by one or the few.” ’

To which the Editorial Board of The Wall Street Journal responded: ‘Chinese President Xi Jinping knows his audience.’

  • ‘In his Monday address to the World Economic Forum, the annual meeting of global luminaries in Davos, Mr. Xi sounded like a liberal internationalist in good standing.’
  • ‘He pulled out all the buzzwords that make Davosians swoon: “inclusive growth,” “green development,” “global governance” and “consensus-building.” ’

‘The Davos website effused that this was a “historic opportunity for collaboration.” ’

  • ‘But Mr. Xi’s People’s Liberation Army told a different story over the weekend, menacing Taiwan with back-to-back military flyovers of more than a dozen planes.’
  • ‘The provocation is a reminder that while the government has changed hands in Washington, it hasn’t in Beijing, which still sees extending sovereignty over Taiwan—possibly by force—as a priority.’

‘Mr. Xi said in his speech that “the strong should not bully the weak,” but that admonition doesn’t seem to apply to his own government.’

  • ‘ “We should stay committed to international law and international rules, instead of seeking one’s own supremacy,” he added.’
  • ‘Tell that to the people of Hong Kong who were promised autonomy through 2047 in a treaty Beijing signed with Britain but are now being arrested for even mild political dissent.’

Asked if Mr. Xi’s speech had an impact on U.S. thinking toward China, 'White House press secretary Jen Psaki said in Monday's press briefing:’

  • "We're in a serious competition with China. Strategic competition with China is a defining feature of the 21st century," Psaki said, criticizing China for engaging in conduct that "hurts American workers, blunts our technological edge, and threatens our alliances and our influence in international organizations."
  • ‘She called for a "new approach" with China, but that the administration of President Joe Biden will approach the issue "with some strategic patience," citing the need to discuss the path going forward with bipartisan members of Congress.’

In response to Ms. Psaky’s comments, PRC Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokesperson, Zhao Lijian, said:

  • ‘China wants cooperation,not strategic competition, the Foreign Ministry said Tuesday, a day after the White House said it was looking to form a "new approach" toward China.’
  • "Over the past few years, the Trump administration went in a very wrong direction. They regarded China as a 'strategic competitor' and even a 'threat,' and thus took erroneous actions that interfered in China's internal affairs and undermined China's interests."
  • "Both countries stand to gain from cooperation and lose from confrontation. Cooperation is the only right choice for both"

And regarding Mr. Xi’s call for multilateralism, Hung Tan of The Atlantic Council noted: ‘Xi’s vision of multilateralism differs in key aspects from the conceptions of multilateralism espoused by much of the world.’

  • ‘Is multilateralism to be based on state rights as sovereign equals that accept no meddling in their internal affairs? Or’
  • ‘Is it instead to be based on universal human rights to which people aspire all over the world—on the notion that governments anywhere should be held accountable for respecting the basic rights of their citizens?’

‘Xi essentially proposed a multilateralism with Chinese characteristics—designed to ensure that international interactions be conducted in accordance with China’s perspectives.’

  • ‘What should be clear after Xi’s address is that when China’s leader invokes multilateralism, he doesn’t have in mind what many others in the international community do.’
  • ‘That chasm needs to be recognized—and bridged.’

Looks as if more than the chasm in conceptions of multilateralism has to be bridged.

  • Stay tuned. This is just getting interesting.


CHINADebate, the publisher of the China Macro Reporter, aims to present different views on a given issue.

Including an article here does not imply agreement with or endorsement of its contents.

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