Xi Jinping and Pence trade barbs on trade, influence

Aaron Brown
November 18, 2018

For his part, Pence vowed United States tariffs would remain in place unless Beijing "changes its ways".

Chinese President Xi Jinping has warned that economic protectionism is overshadowing global growth and urged countries to pursue free trade policies.

Washington's diplomacy wouldn't involve a "constricting belt or a one-way road", he pointedly told CEOs from around the region.

He said the US would not change its course until China changes its ways. "This is a short-sighted approach and it is doomed to failure", Mr Xi told business leaders on the sidelines of the summit.

The US has said it will join Australia in the development of a naval base on Papua New Guinea's Manus Island to "protect the freedom of the seas", in a move apparently aimed at curbing China's presence in the Pacific. The US is working with Japan to invest $10 billion in the region's energy infrastructure, as well as partnering with Japan and Australia "to support a vast array of private development projects across the Indo-Pacific", he said.

U.S. President Donald Trump, who is not attending the APEC meeting, is due to meet Chinese President Xi Jinping in Argentina. "We don't drown our partners in a sea of debt, we don't coerce, compromise your independence", Pence said.

In a strongly-worded speech that took a veiled swipe at China's strategic creep into the Pacific, Mr Pence also warned developing nations to be wary of accepting large infrastructure loans - increasingly used by China to increase its presence in the region - saying the terms of the deals were "often opaque at best".

Reporting from the Papua New Guinean capital Port Moresby, Al Jazeera's Andrew Thomas said the Saturday speeches set a competitive rather than a cooperative tone for the summit.

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The vice president harshly criticized China's global infrastructure drive, known as the "Belt and Road Initiative", calling numerous projects low quality that also saddle developing countries with loans they can't afford.

The move is to counter China's growing influence in the region and to ease the anxiety of the U.S. and Australia.

"History has shown that confrontation, whether in the form of a Cold War, hot war, or trade war will produce no winners", said Mr. Xi. "It is not an exclusive club that is closed to non-members nor is it a trap as some people have labeled it", he said.

"The trade war between the U.S. and China has amplified further the disruption to our trade and commerce".

In his speech, Xi said the world needed to "draw upon each other's strengths and pursue coexistence", rather than criticize other countries' domestic choices.

"What we need to do is to adjust to it and from there build new partnerships and agreements to suit the changes".

"As we look back over the four decades of reform and opening-up, we in China are more convinced than ever before that only through reform and opening-up can China develop itself", Xi said.

In the absence of Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin, the summit itself has been relatively low-key and the focus has turned to the venue Port Moresby.

Other reports by Free-Prsite

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