(Bloomberg) -- China’s most senior diplomat vowed to counter any perceived US efforts to disrupt a once-in-five-year Communist Party meeting at which President Xi Jinping is set to secure a precedent-breaking third term.
Beijing should “resolutely respond to any words and deeds by Washington to suppress and contain China” before the 20th party congress later this year, Yang Jiechi wrote in a front-page commentary in People’s Daily on Monday. Without naming the US, he also said “some individual country” was striving to “maintain its hegemony,” a common reference to America.
Yang, who leads the ruling party’s top foreign policy body, added that Beijing should continue to promote its “comprehensive strategic partnership” with Moscow, as the US repeatedly raises concerns about China’s diplomatic support for Russia’s Vladimir Putin. He added that China should continue to urge the US to meet it “half way” and properly manage differences.
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The Communist Party has put a priority on ensuring stability in 2022 ahead of the most important event on China’s political calendar. Yet disruptions have been rife as virus outbreaks prompted the government to lock down cities, hurting economic growth and rattling markets around the world.
Xi, 68, has stuck by his signature zero-tolerance approach to curbing the virus known as Covid Zero, which relies on lockdowns, mass testing and largely sealed borders. China’s diplomats have held it up as proof the Communist Party oversees a better political system than the US, citing a relatively low number of fatalities compared to the deaths of roughly 1 million Americans.
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Still, China’s goals to both suppress the virus and grow the economy are increasingly at odds. Earlier this month, Premier Li Keqiang warned of the “complicated and grave” employment situation after the nation’s surveyed jobless rate climbed to 5.8% in March, the highest since May 2020.
Yang defended Xi’s approach in the commentary, writing that the nation of 1.4 billion people must “unswervingly stick to” the strategy.
“Some in the West have taken advantage of pandemic prevention measures to recklessly blame China, wantonly smearing and attacking our social system,” he wrote. He added that China should “resolutely safeguard national dignity, regime security and ideological security, to ensure political and social stability.”
Last week, World Health Organization Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus called on China to rethink the Covid-Zero approach, saying it was unsustainable. Earlier in May, White House medical adviser Anthony Fauci said the lockdowns were unlikely to be successful in the long term because the government isn’t using the time to boost vaccination rates among elderly residents facing the highest risk.
China hasn’t announced when the party congress will be, with state media saying only that it will be held in the second half of the year. The event is sensitive in China because not only is Xi expected to secure a third term as president, but officials at all ranks across the nation are competing for promotions.
In 2018, China moved to eliminate term limits for presidents, paving the way for Xi to stay in office indefinitely. Ahead of past party congresses, authorities have tightened security in the capital and more strictly controlled social media, while also stepping up harassment of dissidents.
China’s relationship with the US will be in the spotlight later this week when President Joe Biden makes his first visit to allies South Korea and Japan since taking office. Biden plans to hold a summit in Tokyo with the leaders of Japan, India and Australia, a grouping known as the Quad, which is largely aimed at countering China’s expanding influence in the region.
©2022 Bloomberg L.P.
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