How they see us: China, U.S. clash at summit
Well, that was uncomfortable, said the South China Morning Post (China) in an editorial. At the 21-nation Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation summit in Papua New Guinea last week, Chinese President Xi Jinping and U.S. Vice President Mike Pence engaged in “tough verbal sparring” in their addresses, each blaming the other’s country for their mutual trade war. But while Xi denounced unilateralism and protectionism in general, Pence got personal, accusing China of taking advantage of the U.S. and stealing intellectual property. “The U.S. will not change course until China changes its ways,” Pence said. The tension apparently continued behind the scenes, because for the first time in the 29-year history of APEC, the assembled leaders could not agree on a summit declaration. Papua New Guinea Prime Minister Peter O’Neill implied that the U.S.-China spat was to blame. “You all know who the two big giants in the room were,” he said, “so what can I say?”
We’ll never be able to reach agreement as long as the Americans come with their “petulant, me-first mentality,” said China Daily (China) in an editorial. Xi called on the nations to work together to promote an open, rules-based regional economy. The choice he offered wasn’t between China and the U.S., “but rather between cooperation and confrontation, openness and closing one’s door, win-win progress and a zero-sum game.” The U.S., though, has offered only “the beggar-thy-neighbor approach of unilateralism.”
The deeper disagreement isn’t over tariffs, said Ko Hirano in The Japan Times (Japan). It’s about China’s lust for control over the whole Pacific region. Critics say Beijing’s multitrillion-dollar One Belt, One Road infrastructure program—which offers loans and investments to Asian countries to build ports, railways, and highways—is “intended to draw countries deeper into Beijing’s economic orbit.” Japan joins the U.S. in the worry that China is luring recipients of its loans into a “debt trap” and intends to use the ports and highways it builds for military purposes. Just look at what happened in Sri Lanka, which borrowed more than $1 billion from China to build a port, couldn’t pay it back, and has now “effectively ceded” that port to China. In an effort to counter Beijing’s “rising regional influence,” the other major players are upping their own investments. At the APEC summit, for example, Japan, Australia, New Zealand, and the U.S. agreed to fund a $1.8 billion project to bring electricity to most of Papua New Guinea.
How rich that the U.S. suspects China’s investment motives, said the Global Times (China), when it’s Washington, not Beijing, that attaches “political strings,” such as human rights pledges, to development aid. We’d love to see a world in which “Pence’s words concerning sovereignty, respect, and equality” actually described U.S. actions. “Belittling a third party is not a noble act on the international stage.” ■