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Chinese President Xi Jinping. Photo: Wang Zhao - Pool/Getty Images

Chinese President Xi Jinping warned that a "new cold war" could turn hot, and must be avoided, in a speech on Monday at World Economic Forum’s virtual “Davos Agenda” conference.

Why it matters: Xi didn't refer directly to U.S.-China tensions, but the subtext was clear. These were his first remarks to an international audience since the inauguration of President Biden, whose administration has already concurred with Donald Trump's determination that China is committing "genocide" against Uyghur Muslims, and issued a warning about China's aggression toward Taiwan.

What he's saying:

“We should respect and accommodate differences, avoid meddling in other countries’ internal affairs and resolve disagreements through consultation and dialogue. History and reality have made it clear time and again that the misguided approach of antagonism and confrontation — be it in the form of a cold war, hot war, trade war or tech war — will eventually hurt all countries’ interest and undermine everyone’s well-being.”
— Xi Jinping

Xi also laid out a four-step approach to ensuring the world emerges stronger from the COVID-19 crisis.

  • It includes "macroeconomic policy coordination," the avoidance of "arrogance, prejudice and hatred" in favor of "peaceful coexistence," the reduction of global inequality, and the strengthening of global institutions on issues like public health and climate change.
  • Throughout the speech, Xi repeatedly returned to the importance of international cooperation on nearly every issue — except on those, like human rights, that he deems "internal affairs."

Between the lines: Xi’s speech extolling the virtues of multilateralism would have come across differently just a few months earlier, before Biden’s victory.

  • Unlike Trump, Biden also speaks frequently about the need for international cooperation, including on issues cited by Xi like the pandemic and global development.
  • But Biden also emphasizes the need for Western democracies to work together to confront China — posing a new challenge for Beijing.
  • In his speech, Xi stressed that multilateralism must include everyone, not devolve into “small circles.” In Biden's view, it's based on alliances.

What to watch: Xi specifically opposed the ideas of imposing sanctions or seeking to "create isolation." He also warned that the pandemic should not be allowed to accelerate "decoupling" or the re-routing of supply chains. Those tools are all being heavily debated in Washington when it comes to China.

One key quote: “We should advocate fair competition by competing with each other on a racing field, not beating each other on a wrestling arena.”

Go deeper: Trump's U.S.-China transformation.

Go deeper

John Kerry: U.S.-China climate cooperation is a "critical standalone issue"

President Biden's special climate envoy John Kerry said Wednesday that the U.S. must deal with China on climate change as a "critical standalone issue," but stressed that confronting Beijing's human rights and trade abuses "will never be traded" for climate cooperation.

Why it matters: The last few years have brought about a bipartisan consensus on the threat posed by China. But as the largest emitter of greenhouse gases, China will be a vital player if the world is going to come close to reining in emissions on the scale needed to meet the Paris Agreement goals of limiting warming to 2°C above pre-industrial levels.

Oklahoma sues Biden administration over Pentagon vaccine mandate

Secretary of Defense Lloyd J. Austin testifies before a House Armed Services Committee hearing on Sept. 29 in Washington, D.C. Photo: Olivier Douliery/Pool via Getty Images

The state of Oklahoma filed a lawsuit against the Biden administration on Thursday in an attempt to block the enforcement of its vaccine mandate for federal employees.

Why it matters: The move comes one day after Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin denied Oklahoma Gov. Kevin Stitt's (R) request to exempt the state's National Guard from the mandate.

Congress passes stopgap funding bill to avert shutdown

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer. Photo: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

The Senate voted 69-28 to pass legislation Thursday night to fund the government until February 18.

Why it matters: The move staves off a government shutdown but lawmakers still have a busy month ahead: Congress needs to work out a deal to raise the debt ceiling in a few weeks and Democrats are trying to pass their behemoth social spending bill.