Apr 20, 2021 - World

China's Xi swipes at U.S.: "Countries shouldn't impose rules on others"

Chinese President Xi Jinping attends a video summit with French President Emmanuel Macron and German Chancellor Angela Merkel in Beijing, capital of China, April 16

China's President Xi Jinping during a video summit in Beijing on Friday. Photo: Li Xueren/Xinhua via Getty Images

China's President Xi Jinping on Tuesday warned against "bossing others around or meddling in others' internal affairs" and called for "more fair and equitable" global governance.

Why it matters: Xi's thinly veiled swipes at the U.S. during an online speech at an economic forum come at a time of heightened tensions between Beijing and Washington over trade, human rights and China's strategic and economic ambitions.

"However strong it may grow, China will never seek hegemony, expansion or a sphere of influence, nor will China ever engage in an arms race."
— Xi

What else he's saying: "International affairs should be conducted by way of negotiations and discussions, and the future destiny of the world should be decided by all countries," Xi said at the Boao Forum for Asia.

  • "One or a few countries shouldn't impose their rules on others, and the world shouldn’t be led on by the unilateralism of a few countries."
  • Xi warned that "any effort to build barriers and decouple works against economic and market principles, and would only harm others without benefiting oneself."

Of note: The "barriers" comment was an apparent reference to concerns that U.S.-China tensions over security and technology could "split industries and markets into separate, less productive spheres with incompatible standards," AP notes.

Reality check: Some of Xi’s comments are in stark contrast to the ruling Chinese Communist Party's actions. This includes:

  • An increased Chinese military presence in the South China Sea as it tries to claim territories recognized as being part of other countries.
  • Threats to Taiwan — including sending Chinese military aircraft to the island's air space in March — which prompted the Biden administration to send an unofficial delegation to Taiwan earlier this month.
  • China's military spending is the second-highest in the world after the U.S.
  • "Beijing is developing nuclear-capable ballistic missiles, submarines, stealth fighters and other weapons to extend its military reach," per AP.

But, but, but: Despite the flashpoints, Beijing has been "making a concerted effort to improve ties with U.S. businesses," and several prominent American executives are taking part in the Asian economic forum — including Apple's Tim Cook and Tesla's Elon Musk, Bloomberg reports.

  • And Xi's government and the Biden administration agreed to work together to tackle global climate change, after John Kerry, President Biden's special envoy on climate change, visited Shanghai last week to discuss the matter.
  • Xi said at the forum it's important "to follow the philosophy of green development, advance international cooperation on climate change and do more to implement the Paris agreement on climate change."

What to watch: Xi is due to take part in the White House's virtual climate summit, which is set to begin this Thursday.

  • The Biden administration did not immediately respond to Axios' request for comment.

Go deeper: House votes to condemn China's government for Hong Kong rights violations

Go deeper