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China rallies Asian nations to fight ‘Bullying’ in jab at US

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NEW DELHI: China’s No. 3 leader took a veiled swipe at the US at a regional forum as the country seeks to push back against the global influence of the world’s leading power while trying to steady the countries’ ties at the same time.
“Hegemonic and bullying acts are deeply harmful,”

Zhao Leji

, the ruling Communist Party’s third-ranking official, said at a keynote speech to the annual

Boao Forum

on Thursday attended by Asian leaders and global diplomats.

“We must oppose

trade protectionism

and all forms of erecting barriers, decoupling or severing supply chains.”
Zhao didn’t name any country, but his remarks underscore China’s continued efforts to promote a Chinese alternative to the US-led world order even as it courts American business leaders to help achieve an ambitious growth target this year.
Zhao, who is also chair of the top legislative body’s standing committee, called upon Asian countries to “oppose power politics and

hegemonic acts

and maintain the regional order that accommodates the needs and interests of all parties.”

His comments appear to reference Washington’s policy to reduce US reliance on China and push its Asian allies to clip Beijing’s efforts to increase the nation’s military and economic might. Zhao also urged Asian countries to stay independent and work together to maintain security in the region.
Richard McGregor, senior fellow for East

Asia

at the Sydney-based Lowy Institute who attended the Boao Forum for Asia, said the Communist Party is effectively seeking to build a China-centric alliance despite its stated rejection of a zero-sum mentality.

“The Chinese are vehemently opposed to what they call ‘bloc confrontation’ but the truth is they are building their own sphere of influence in Asia,” McGregor said. “Zhao was quite explicit about this, saying in particular that Asian countries should be jointly responsible for security in the region, a notion that excludes the US.”
Kazakhstan’s President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev, Nauru’s President David Adeang, Dominica’s Prime Minister Roosevelt Skerrit, Cambodia’s President Hun Sen and Sri Lanka’s Prime Minister Dinesh Gunawardena were among leaders who gave speeches at the Thursday event.
Zhao’s speech is reminiscent of the one Chinese President

Xi Jinping

gave in October to appeal to emerging economies in the so-called Global South, spanning across South America, Africa and Southeast Asia. At the time, the Chinese leader criticized unilateral sanctions, geopolitical rivalry and bloc politics, also without naming the US.
Zhao also promoted Xi’s signature

Belt and Road Initiative

, the country’s flagship foreign policy program promising Chinese investment in infrastructure projects from Europe to Asia to Africa. He also tried to dismiss concerns over China’s slowing economic engine, touting the three new growth drivers of electric vehicles, batteries and solar products.
The four-day Boao gathering in the southern island of Hainan comes as Beijing intensifies a charm offensive to lure overseas investment and bolster its diplomatic efforts to portray China as a responsible power.
It follows on the heels of Xi’s meeting on Wednesday with a group of US business executives in Beijing. The Chinese president met CEOs including Blackstone’s Stephen Schwarzman and Qualcomm Inc.’s Cristiano Amon as officials seek to restore confidence in the world’s second-largest economy and keep relations with the US on a stable footing.
US-China ties have stabilized after Xi met with President Joe Biden in San Francisco in November, although they continue to dispute over a broad range of issues spanning trade curbs and accusations of cyberattacks.
China and the US should “seek common ground on major issues while reserving differences on minor ones,” Xi told the group of representatives from American business, strategic and academic communities, according to a readout of the meeting.
On Tuesday, China said it filed a complaint to the World Trade Organization over US electric vehicle subsidies. Earlier in the week, the US and UK accused state-backed Chinese hackers of targeting politicians, companies and dissidents, as well as stealing troves of British voter data.

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