Xi warns against economic decoupling and calls for new world order

Xi Jinping has called for a new world order, using a speech at China’s flagship business event to launch a veiled attack against US global leadership and to warn against economic decoupling.

“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 pandemic.

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 made the comments just days after Joe Biden, US president, and Japanese prime minister Yoshihide Suga committed to working together to oppose Chinese coercion in the South and East China Seas. 

Washington and other western governments have also been highly critical of Beijing’s crackdown on Hong Kong and human rights abuses against Uyghur Muslims in Xinjiang.

“Bossing others around and interfering in other countries’ internal affairs will not be well received,” Xi said. 

Despite the geopolitical tensions, US businesses are eager to expand operations in China, which posted 18.3 per cent year on year economic growth in the first three months of 2021. 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 Apple chief executive Tim Cook, Goldman Sachs president John Waldron, Tesla boss Elon Musk 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

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