The Chinese president, Xi Jinping, has called on Joe Biden to end America’s trade war against Beijing, warning against “a new Cold War”.
In his first speech since Mr Biden entered the White House five days ago, Mr Xi gave a thinly-veiled message to the new US leader to abandon the bellicose stance of his predecessor, Donald Trump.
Mr Xi made his comments at a meeting of the World Economic Forum in Davos, in a speech that could set the tone for relations between Washington and Beijing for the next four years.
“To build small cliques or start a new Cold War, to reject, threaten or intimidate others… will only push the world into division,” Mr Xi said.
While Mr Xi did not mention either Mr Biden or Mr Trump by name, his comments were clearly addressing the hostile relationship that developed between America and Washington during Trump years.
In that time, Mr Trump slapped hefty import tariffs on Chinese goods, claiming that unfair trading practices were to blame for the loss of millions of US manufacturing jobs.
While Mr Biden has pledged to end Mr Trump’s “isolationist” approach to Beijing, he too has said that the US must remain “tough with China”, and has accused Beijing of intellectual property theft and giving unfair subsidies to state-owned exporters. Instead, he wants a more unified diplomatic strategy, roping in European nations to pile pressure on Beijing.
He also intends to step up criticism of China over its treatment of Uighur Muslims and its new security laws imposed on Hong Kong.
Mr Xi, however, said China would not take kindly to either lecturing or sanctions over its human rights record or trade policies.
“We should respect and accommodate differences, avoid meddling in other countries’ internal affairs and resolve disagreements through consultation and dialogue,” he said. “The misguided approach of antagonism and confrontation, be it in the form of cold war, hot war, trade war or tech war, will eventually hurt all countries’ interests.”
Mr Xi expressed confidence that the world would eventually recover from the Covid 19 crisis, which had plunged it into its worst recession since World War II.
But in an apparent signal of his view of China’s new place in the global order, he stressed: “The world will not go back to the way it was in the past.”
While he said that Beijing was a supporter of multilateralism – a policy Donald Trump conspicuously abandoned – he envisaged it as a partnership of equals rather than one in which any nation was “superior” to another.
Mr Biden is not due to speak at Davos, which is being held as an online summit because of the Covid outbreak. His US climate envoy, John Kerry, is due to address the event instead.