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Xi Jinping

Xi Jinping portrays China as global leader as Donald Trump prepares to take office

Chinese president tells UN in Geneva that his nation wants to lead efforts to shape relations between world’s major powers

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 19 January, 2017, 4:13pm
UPDATED : Thursday, 19 January, 2017, 11:49pm

China wants to lead efforts to build a “stable and balanced” framework for relations among the world’s major powers, ­President Xi Jinping said at the United Nations’ European headquarters in Geneva.

His speech marked the end of a four-day diplomatic tour that ­included an address against trade protectionism at the World ­Economic Forum in the Swiss ski resort of Davos, and a state visit to Switzerland.

The trip came right before US president-elect Donald Trump is sworn into office and was viewed by analysts as an attempt to position China as a global leader amid suggestions the new administration in the White House might lesson the US role on the world stage.

Xi said during his speech on Wednesday that China was actively pursuing “a new model of major country relations” with the US as a way of avoiding conflicts between the two powers, while deepening ­relations with Europe as well as Russia and the other nations in the so-called BRICS bloc – Brazil, India and South Africa.

“We need to push for the ­democratisation of international relations … The responsibility for global governance should be shared by different countries,” Xi said.“Big countries should treat small countries as equals and ­refrain from seeking hegemony. No country should start a war casually or break international law,” he said.

Don’t blame globalisation for world’s ills, Xi Jinping tells Davos

China’s pursuit of a new model for ties with the US was often met with scepticism under Barack Obama’s administration.

Xi also offered a defence of ­globalisation in his UN speech, citing the progress that it brings despite its problems, such as the inequalities that accompany ­economic development.

“Economic globalisation is the right direction. Of course, we ­acknowledge the existence of problems like inequality, difficulties in governance,” he said.

“We need to address and solve these problems. But we cannot give up eating for fear of choking,” Xi added.

Other nations, particularly the US, have accused Beijing of adopting protectionist policies and limiting access to its markets.

Trump scored a stunning election victory in November riding a wave of popular sentiment that blames globalisation for increasing inequality.

He has repeatedly accused China of stealing US jobs and has threatened to slap tariffs on its ­exports to the United States.

During his speech, Xi also portrayed China as a champion of multilateralism. “China’s commitment to support multilateralism will not change … China will resolutely uphold the international order with the United Nations being the core of global governance,” he said.

Xi’s attitude towards the UN is in sharp contrast to that of Trump, who is a harsh critic of the international body.

In the wake of last month’s adoption of a UN Security Council resolution condemning Israeli settlements in the West Bank and East Jerusalem, Trump said the UN was “causing problems” rather than solving them.

Zhao Kejin, an international relations specialist at Tsinghua University, said Xi’s speech signalled a more active approach for Beijing in shaping its international relations.

“China has in the past put forward a framework on ways to develop relations with other major countries such as the US and European states,” Zhao said.

“[Xi’s speech] means China is becoming more active and balanced [in its foreign policy direction]… It won’t depend on just one country,” he said.

Jia Qingguo, an associate dean of the school of international studies at Peking University, said China still needed time to adapt itself to an increase in expectations from the world and more responsibility in global affairs.

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres told Xi it was “very reassuring to see China assuming such a clear leadership in multilateralism in today’s world”.