‘No one’s backyard’: Xi sends message to U.S. on first trip in new term

China’s President Xi Jinping arrives to attend the APEC Economic Leaders Meeting during the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation, APEC summit, Saturday, Nov. 19, 2022, in Bangkok, Thailand.

China’s President Xi Jinping arrives to attend the APEC Economic Leaders Meeting during the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation, APEC summit, Saturday, Nov. 19, 2022, in Bangkok, Thailand.
| Photo Credit: AP

 Chinese President Xi Jinping ended his week-long trip through Asia, his first overseas visit in his third-term, warning against “decoupling” and countries treating Asia as their “backyard” in thinly-veiled messages aimed at the United States.

Mr. Xi, who began his trip with a meeting with U.S President Joe Biden on Monday, November 14, 2022, in Bali ahead of the G-20 Summit, ended his visit in Bangkok with a flurry of bilateral meetings on the sidelines of the APEC summit, all aimed at shoring up China’s relations in the region and pushing back against the U.S.

Meeting with Philippines President Ferdinand Marcos Jr., Mr. Xi called on both countries to “work together to reject unilateralism and acts of bullying, defend fairness and justice, and safeguard peace and stability in the region. ”A similar message followed his meeting with Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong. “China will work with Singapore,” the Chinese Foreign Ministry quoted Mr. Xi as saying, “to uphold solidarity and cooperation in the region, oppose group politics, resist bloc confrontation, keep to the right direction of economic and regional integration, and firmly reject the attempts to push for ‘decoupling and severing supply chains’, or to build ‘a small yard with high fences’.” 

That was also the message stressed by Mr. Xi in two speeches to the APEC meet in Bangkok. “The Asia-Pacific is no one’s backyard and should not become an arena for big power contest. No attempt to wage a new cold war will ever be allowed by the people or by the times,” he told a CEO summit. The Chinese leader added at the APEC meet that “no one should interfere in other countries’ internal affairs,” without naming any country. “Everyone should respect the development path and social system chosen independently by the people of each country,” he said. “We should take an active part in global governance and make the international order more just and reasonable to ensure peace and stability in the Asia-Pacific region and beyond.”

Mr. Xi has pushed for a deepening of China’s already considerable economic links in the region, calling for “the early realisation” of the Free Trade Area of the Asia-Pacific and for the “the full and high-quality implementation of the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) deal”. Mr. Xi announced in Bangkok that Beijing would next year host its third Belt and Road Forum after a three-year hiatus. In Bali, Mr. Xi and Indonesian President Joko Widodo jointly launched an operational trial of the China-built Jakarta-Bandung bullet train – the first in Southeast Asia and a flagship BRI project in Indonesia – in their meeting after the G20 summit.

The spurt in diplomatic engagement at the start of Mr. Xi’s third-term, which began last month after the Party Congress, also saw a first meeting between the leaders of China and Japan in three years. The readouts from both sides, as with the Xi-Biden talks, suggested an attempt to better manage a long list of differences.

“This was a good start for creating a constructive and stable Japan-China relationship as well as for pushing along dialogue,” Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida told reporters, adding he had raised Japanese concerns including on Chinese military activities near disputed East China Sea islands.

Mr. Xi, for his part, told the Japanese leader both sides “need to view each other’s development in an objective and rational manner”, deepen complementarity of their “highly interdependent economies”, as well as “uphold strategic autonomy”.

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