Xi plays it cool on Biden UN sniping

Top News | AGENCIES 23 Sep 2021

Choosing calm language as tensions with the United States grow, Chinese leader Xi Jinping reiterated his nation's longtime policy of multilateralism, telling world leaders at the United Nations that disputes among countries need to be handled through dialogue and cooperation.

His remarks came hours after US President Joe Biden said he does not have any intention of starting a new Cold War - a response to criticism from the UN chief that both Washington and Beijing need to make sure their differences and tensions do not derail their 42-year-old relationship and cause problems for the rest of the planet.

"One country's success does not have to mean another country's failure," Xi said in a prerecorded speech to the UN general assembly's leaders' meeting in New York. "The world is big enough to accommodate common development and progress of all countries."

Biden did not utter the words "China" or "Beijing" but sprinkled implicit references to America's increasingly powerful competitor throughout his speech as the two nations butt heads in the Indo-Pacific and on trade and human rights.

The comments from leaders of the two main powers appeared to represent efforts to calm the waters after UN secretary-general Antonio Guterres admonished them for putting confrontation ahead of productive dialogue.

Xi did not let the United States off the hook entirely. In comments aimed at Washington, he criticized nations that fiddle around in the affairs of others.

"Recent developments in the global situation show once again that military intervention from the outside and so-called democratic transformation entail nothing but harm," he said, an apparent reference to events in Afghanistan last month after the US military withdrawal.

Earlier, Biden said in his UN address that the United States was not attempting to be divisive or confrontational.

"We are not seeking a new Cold War or a world divided into rigid blocs,'' he said. "The United States is ready to work with any nation that steps up and pursues peaceful resolution to shared challenges even if we have intense disagreements in other areas.''

China has also been strongly critical of American calls for a renewed investigation into the origins of Covid-19, which first spread in Wuhan in late 2019.

On climate, China has tied its cooperation on reducing carbon emissions to the United States dropping critical policies linked to the mass detention of Uygurs of Xinjiang, a crackdown on civil rights in Hong Kong and other human rights issues.

Xi and Biden both made major new pledges on climate change, raising guarded hope that the world's two largest emitters and polluters can bring progress. Xi said China would stop funding overseas coal projects, ending the last significant source of aid for the dirty energy.

This came after Biden promised to double US climate aid to hardest-hit nations to an estimated US$11.4 billion (HK$88.92 billion) a year.

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