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China's Xi Jinping Warns Against 'Catastrophic Consequences' of Major Confrontation

Newsweek logo Newsweek 1/18/2022 John Feng
Chinese President Xi Jinping is seen on a TV screen speaking remotely at the opening of the World Economic Forum Davos Agenda at the WEF's headquarters in Geneva, Switzerland, on January 17, 2022. © FABRICE COFFRINI/AFP via Getty Images Chinese President Xi Jinping is seen on a TV screen speaking remotely at the opening of the World Economic Forum Davos Agenda at the WEF's headquarters in Geneva, Switzerland, on January 17, 2022.

Chinese leader Xi Jinping warned the West against a bloc confrontation and economic decoupling for a second year in a row, after a similar message to President Joe Biden fell on deaf ears 12 months earlier.

Speaking virtually from Beijing, Xi's address at the World Economic Forum on Monday included his view of the world as "undergoing major changes unseen in a century."

The world, he said, was "in a new period of turbulence and transformation."

When he addressed Davos last year, it had only been days since Biden's inauguration. Xi cautioned against forming "cliques" and stoking a "new Cold War" after his American counterpart vowed to reinforce U.S. alliances and build democratic coalitions.

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A year later, the U.S. remains locked in intense competition with China in multiple arenas, with both countries vying for economic, technological and military primacy in the Indo-Pacific region.

However, unlike the final year of President Donald Trump's administration, America appears to have the backing of key allies in the West and in Asia.

"We need to discard Cold War mentality and seek peaceful coexistence and win-win outcomes," Xi told Davos, sounding the same warning as he did this time last year. Containment, suppression or confrontation, he said, would harm world peace and security.

"History has proved time and again that confrontation does not solve problems; it only invites catastrophic consequences," China's leader said. "Protectionism and unilateralism can protect no one; they ultimately hurt the interests of others as well as one's own. Even worse are the practices of hegemony and bullying, which run counter to the tide of history."

Of note was Xi's call to avoid "parallel systems," a reference to the U.S.-led restructuring of global supply chains that threatens to omit Chinese technologies and end users, potentially creating a bifurcated world, where the two largest economies are no longer intimately entwined.

Earlier in his address, Xi had told countries to uphold what he called "true multilateralism," a concept that, in the eyes of Beijing, would focus solely on trade and not exclude governments based on values or other ideological differences.

"We should remove barriers, not erect walls. We should open up, not close off. We should seek integration, not decoupling," he said, expressing clear opposition to American economic policies targeting Beijing.

Despite Xi's warnings, however, emerging technologies that are researched and developed in China continue to be cut from sensitive industries in the West, including in 5G and semiconductors.

In Asia, major economies such as Japan and Taiwan are aligning closer with the U.S. than ever before while discussing their own bilateral economic engagements as well.

Xi has been outspoken about his belief that the West in general and America in particular are in decline, while the East is on the rise. Some observers, including those in China, say that encouraging such thinking could lead to "blind self-confidence."

In 2017, Xi became the first Chinese president to attend Davos, the decision coming in the weeks after Trump was elected president. The emergence of an unconventional U.S. leader with isolationist tendencies was seen in Beijing as a suitable opportunity for China to take on a global leadership role.

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