Chinese President Xi Jinping joined his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin in lashing out at U.S. global dominance, highlighting the two powers’ growing confrontation with the administration of Donald Trump.
“Along with the emergence of reverse-globalization and hegemonism, global society faces increasing new challenges,” Xi said Friday at the St. Petersburg International Economic Forum.
The U.S. is attempting to “impose its jurisdiction across the entire world,” Putin said. This is pushing the world on a “path to permanent conflicts, trade wars, and maybe not only trade ones,” he said.
Putin and Xi barely mentioned Trump and the U.S. directly, but the target of their remarks was clear. Their comments created the strange spectacle of the leaders of the world’s biggest Communist nation and its authoritarian neighbor staunchly defending a global system of rules they have often been accused of seeking to undermine.
The Chinese leader’s visit to Russia comes as he seeks to face down Trump amid escalating tensions between the world’s two biggest economies. While China has traditionally avoided being dragged into a direct stand-off with the U.S., the commercial battle is making that increasingly hard to do.
"I cannot imagine if China and the U.S. are completely separated -- this is not something that I am willing to see, nor my U.S. friends, including Trump, would be willing to see,” said Xi, who’s due to meet his U.S. counterpart later this month at the Group of 20 summit in Japan.
Asked about Trump’s tactics of using tariffs to force China into a deal, Xi urged “mutual respect” in resolving disagreements between powers. “One shouldn’t resort to one-sided approaches, protectionism,” he said.
China has seized on the trade war and U.S. disengagement abroad to pitch itself as a champion of globalization. Just before Trump’s inauguration in 2017, Xi defended global trade and multilateralism at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland.
Xi presided over the signing of US$20 billion in agreements at his meeting with Putin on Wednesday in Moscow at the start of his three-day visit to Russia. Among them was an accord for Huawei Technologies Co., which faces a U.S. ban from 5G networks, to start pilot zones in Russia with Mobile TeleSystems PJSC.
Putin on Friday lauded Russia-China cooperation as a major factor in maintaining global stability. He named Trump’s campaign against Huawei as an example of U.S. efforts to monopolize the world economy, along with threats of sanctions to derail the construction of the Nord Stream 2 natural gas pipeline to Europe. The use of the dollar as an instrument of pressure was undermining its role as a global reserve currency, he said.
Xi, who brought with him two pandas for the Moscow zoo, said at the Kremlin meeting that Russo-Chinese ties had reached their “highest level in history.” On Thursday he was awarded an honorary doctorate from Putin’s alma mater and the Russian leader showed him around his hometown of St. Petersburg.
Since Russia came under U.S. and European sanctions in 2014 over the Ukraine conflict, Beijing and Moscow have stepped up their economic and defense ties and are coordinating more closely on major international issues such as Syria, Iran and North Korea. Despite rising friction with the U.S., both Xi and Putin have sought to cultivate relations with Trump.
The world risks “sleepwalking into a new Cold War” amid the international tensions, United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said at the same panel with Putin and Xi. “This has to stop.”