Rivalry between China and the United States intensifies, with the shooting down of a “spy” balloon by the US. It has now defined domestic political speeches in which their respective leaders each laid out claims for their contrasting systems to be on the right side of history. There was no obvious reason to expect anything remarkable when Xi Jinping gave a keynote address to a study session of officials ahead of the annual meetings of China’s parliament next month, or when Joe Biden delivered his annual State of the Union speech to Congress a few hours later. But they turned out to be very important landmark events during which both sides looked comfortable in contrasting their political systems. Ultimately, this underlines the need to contain competition within the realms of peaceful coexistence. Xi said China had debunked “the myth that modernisation means Westernisation” and hailed the Chinese model as a paradigm for developing countries to follow. He said China’s path “showed a new modernisation model, different from the West”, which he called a “brand new form of human civilisation”. He urged Communist Party members to promote Chinese modernisation which “expands the path choices for developing countries … and provides China’s solution for human beings to explore a better social system”. China proved developing countries could advance economically and improve governing systems. Biden’s speech reflected the view that the Ukraine war has united the West more than ever, with democracy as a whole on the rise and rival systems in retreat. America was now facing the China challenge firmly and squarely and, while the latest sanctions had slowed China’s technological development, the US believes its own economy is growing strongly, with manufacturing expanding again. Separately, many American academics believe the sudden policy switch away from zero-Covid and a slowing economy have sapped China’s confidence, giving Biden and the US government heart to speak from a position of strength. But Xi’s speech shows China does not agree that reopening was a sign of weakness. Xi Jinping hails China modernisation miracle as path for developing countries It sees the Covid policy switch as an adjustment to the position on the ground and that the West has misread what is happening in China. There should be no need to make a judgment about who is on the right side of history. It is more important that the two sides can coexist, leaving other countries to choose their own development models. It is to be expected from the two speeches that competition between China and the West will only become more intense in coming months. It needs to be contained and managed to ensure it is peaceful. Direct open conflict will affect everyone in the region.