President Donald Trump has cajoled China on Twitter. He has threatened to impose tariffs on $150 billion of Chinese imports. He predicted China would back down.
Speaking publicly Tuesday for the first time since the beginning of an escalating trade dispute between his country and the United States, Xi implicitly took aim at the Trump administration, saying, “We must refrain from seeking dominance” by rejecting “power politics.” And he pledged to rebuff efforts to impose barriers to world trade.
“China’s door of opening up will not be closed and will only open up even wider,” he said, pledging to open up his country’s financial and insurance sectors.
“We need to treat each other with respect and as equals, respect each other’s core interest and major concerns, and follow a new approach to state-to-state relations featuring dialogue,” he said. “We live in a time with an overwhelming trend towards openness and connectivity.”
The speech, delivered at the Boao Forum for Asia in China’s southern island province of Hainan, is the latest effort by China to position itself as an advocate of free trade and reliable growth. That pitch runs counter to China’s long-standing reputation as a country that has been accused of violating trade rules and intellectual property rights. It also comes as Xi tightens his grip over his country’s political, social and economic life.
But in a time when the United States’ policies have called into question the stability of the world order, China’s growing confidence and its verbal support of global trade rules offers other countries a potentially appealing alternative to Trump’s rhetoric.
Xi’s speech came just days after the United States and China exchanged tit-for-tat tariff threats that have ignited worries of a global trade war. Trump administration officials have accused China of forcing foreign companies doing business there to give up trade secrets as part of Beijing’s effort to retool the Chinese economy and create companies that can compete with U.S. rivals.
This article originally appeared in The New York Times.